May 24, 2022 3 min read

The swallow tattoo dates back to the early days of sailing in the UK- that’s right, a long time ago! Although over the years the meaning has changed slightly, back then, it used to be a good luck symbol that the sailor would return home, just the same as swallows do. The placement and amount of swallows tattooed heightened the meaning even further. In this blog, we will discuss the full meaning of the swallow tattoo, so without further ado, let’s get into it!


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Different designs of swallow tattoos

The type of swallow that was originally tattooed were typically barn swallows in flight. Some sailors said that the number of swallows represented the amount of experience they had- with one swallow representing the achievement of sailing 5,000 miles. To indicate that this tattoo was representing this meaning, the tattoo would be placed on the chest, arm or hand. According to legend, in having this swallow tattoo, you were then guaranteed to return home safely. Some believed this legend so much so that they would get the tattoo before they set off for sail and another after they returned to their home port. It was also believed that if the sailor didn’t return home, the swallows would carry their soul to heaven.


In modern times though, swallows can be of all shapes, sizes and designs. This may range from being a silhouette, outline an intricate design or something bolder. They may also be combined with flowers, hearts, banners or slogans which further enhance their meaning.


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In short: What does the swallow tattoo mean?

The meanings have changed slightly over the years and they now represent a variety of symbolisms including:


  • Return after a long time away from home
  • Love for family and friends
  • Freedom
  • Success
  • Loyalty 
  • Rebirth 

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What are the meanings in variations of the swallow tattoo?


Nowadays, the symbolic meaning of a swallow tattoo can change depending on the design. Some of these meanings include:


  • Swallow fist tattoos - These tattoos are a sign of a street fighter. Generally, they are worn by men, who believe the symbol represents that their fists are quick to fly. It isn’t typically associated with animosity though, they typically will symbolize that they will be quick to defend those whom he loves.
  • Coloured swallow tattoos - This is often associated with people who have come through something unpleasant. Coloured swallow tattoos represent triumph over adversity, so are commonly worn by people who have survived a disease. Having this tattoo also spreads awareness. Different colours can symbolise the type of disease, for example, pink swallows can represent breast cancer.
  • Wrist swallow tattoos- Commonly worn by women, this swallow tattoo represents love for family, loyalty, freedom from affliction, rebirth or overcoming adversity.
  • Combination swallow tattoos - This means swallows that are combined with other designs such as love hearts, flowers and more. This tattoo can be interpreted in a variety of different ways, depending upon the colours used, the number of swallows and the design. Generally, though, they send an uplifting and positive message.
  • Flying bird tattoos - A swallow in flight symbolises either freedom of overcoming a difficult time, or returning home after a long journey.

Thank you for reading our blog ‘What does the swallow tattoo mean?’. If you’re thinking about getting a swallow tattoo, why not tryTattoo Numbing Cream?