Swallow Tattoo Designs

Swallow tattoo

Swallow tattoos are rich with history and symbolism all over the world. Over the centuries, the little bird has been linked to health, wealth, loyalty, and the rigors of long-distance travel.

The Swallow tattoo is cool and trendy nowadays, just as other bird tattoos and old school designs such as the nautical star tattoo. Swallow tattoos are often combined with stars, cherries, flowers, arrows or a banner with text. Popular body parts to wear a swallow tattoo are the hip, chest, lower back and shoulders.


Swallow tattoo design with flowers

What Does a Swallow Tattoo Symbolize?

Swallow tattoos

Swallow Tattoo

The swallow, as well as bluebirds and sparrows, has always had a symbolic meaning for sailors because these birds were usually the first sign that land was near (before modern navigation technology). A swallow tattoo for a sailor reflected his hope of coming home safely.

Another fact is that swallows return home every year, no matter where they are. Every year, Mission San Juan Capistrano in California plays host to this wonder of nature. A flock of the tiny birds numbering in the tens or even hundreds of thousands descends upon the mission in a grand display of the workings of migration.

The swallow is a bird that chooses a mate for life. Therefore a swallow tattoo is also a symbol for love and loyalty to the family.

Other symbolic meanings are in the same line:

  • The return home after a struggle
  • A hardship survived
  • A victory gained.


The origins of the swallow tattoo go back to a ship named The Swallow. At one time, the crew of the ship had a mutiny. In order to recognize each other, the 7 mutineers who started the mutiny had a swallow tattooed on their chest.

After that, the swallow tattoo was the tattoo design for sailors to show off their sailing experience. Every five thousand nautical miles (5750 miles or 9250 km), a sailor traditionally has a swallow tattooed onto his chest:

Swallow rose tattoo

  • Traveling over sea in the early years was a dangerous and difficult undertaking, so a sailor with one or two swallow tattoos was considered very experienced and therefore trustworthy and valuable.
  • Legend has it that if the sailor does not survive his travels, and ends up drowning, the birds alight upon his soul and carry him from the murky waters, into heaven's grasp...certainly a haunting image.
  • Other occasions sailors used to get swallow tattoos:

    • After sailing all 7 seas.
    • After sailing around the horns (the bottom of Africa and South America).
    • 1 swallow tattoo after crossing the equator and another one when coming back.


Other Meanings of Swallow Tattoos

  • In some cultures, the first swallow of spring is a very fortunate sight because it is an omen of financial success. To ensure wealth through the year, one must rub two coins together while watching the bird.
  • A tattoo of 2 swallows represents freedom. It is a popular tattoo design amongst people who are just released from prison.
  • A swallow tattoo on the fists does symbolize that the person who wears it is a good fighter (in the UK). The tattoo is supposed to give you fast hands in a fight.
  • Sometimes a swallow can also be seen in gang tattoos.
  • Swallow tattoos, as wells as bluebird and sparrow tattoos (jailbirds), are also a symbol of white supremacy for some people.

Swallow bird tattoos

The swallow tattoo and other old-school tattoos are trendy again, especially in some scenes, such as the rockabilly scene. They are a popular design amongst rockabilly girls and other retro chicks, just as nautical stars and cherry tattoos. This is due to the fact that these old school tattoos were common during the prime time of rockabilly music. A good example of the tattoo designs typical for that time is the work of tattoo artist Sailor Jerry, who had his tattoo parlor in Honolulu's Chinatown. Sailor Jerry's pupil, Ed Hardy, is known for this traditional style as well.

A symbol of hope for the return home, of loyalty to one's family and home, of freedom, the swallow is a beautiful choice for a tattoo, whether or not you plan on spending your days out at sea. As with all anamorphic, you can decide how to explain the meaning behind your skin art, each has his or her own symbolic interpretation.


Check out these photos and designs:

Click to enlarge...

Pink swallow and arrow tattoo design Cherry blossom and swallow tattoo design Hip hop swallow tattoo design
Old school swallow tattoo on hand Swallow and stars tattoo Swallow and cherry blossom tattoo
Swallows and heart tattoo design Swallow and heart tattoo design Swallow tattoo design
Red swallow tatoo on a man's arm Realistic swallow tattoo Swallow tattoo on a girl's hip
Good and bad swallow tattoo design In loving memory swallow tattoo design Swallow, anchor and name banner tattoo design
Swallow and flowers tattoo Cute swallow tattoo Black swallow tattoo on a girl's shoulder
Swallow and crown tattoo design Pierced swallow tattoo design Cute swallow tattoo design
Swallow tattoo on a girl's chest Woman with a swallows tattoo on her back Swallow bird tattoo
Flying swallow tattoo design Grey swallow tattoo design Cute swallow tattoo design
Femine swallow tattoo Classic swallow tattoo design Swallow and cherry tattoo design
Swallow tattoo Swallow tattoo on foot Swallow tattoo
Swallow tattoo design Green and blue swallow tattoo design Swallow and banner tattoo design
Swallow andpierced heart tattoo design Swallows tattoo design Swallow, heart and rose tattoo design
Stars and swallow tattoo Swallow tattoo on a girl's shoulder Girl with a cross and swallow tattoo
Swallow tattoo on arm Swallow tattoo

 Make sure you also check out our Heart Tattoo Designs


Celebrities With a Swallow Tattoo

  • Robbie Williams: this celebrity has a tattoo of 2 swallows on his abdomen.
  • Marc Almond: singer from the British band Softcell, has a swallow tattoo on his neck.
  • Marianne Faithfull: singer with swallow tattoo on her left hand.
  • Christina Applegate: Married With Children actress, has a swallow tattoo on her abdomen.
  • Mark McGrath: singer from the band Sugar Ray, has a red swallow on his right shoulder and a blue swallow on his left.
  • Rachel Perry: VH1 host with two swallows on her abdomen.
  • Johnny Depp: has a swallow tattoo on his right arm. He's full of tattoos, you couldn't find a better actor for the role of Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean.


Swallow tattoo art