Arrow Tattoo Meanings

Let’s face it… archers are cool. Some of the most awesome characters in pop culture have been archers, like Legolas, Katniss Everdeen, Hawkeye, or Merida from “Brave.” The upsurge in popular bow-wielding characters is at least partially responsible for the recent increase of arrow-based ink, but arrow tattoos have a wealth of symbolism that make them a great choice for a number of reasons. Arrow symbolism is often heavily positive, no matter what culture the design is associated with.

Compass Arrow Tattoo on forearm

Compass Arrow Tattoo by @gregmfd84

Most tattoo designs that you see in the mainstream today have originated from Native American

 arrow symbolism - such as the image of crossed arrows, for example. However, many cultures worldwide have relied heavily on archery for both war and hunting throughout history, so the Native Americans be no means have a monopoly on the subject. Arrow tattoos done with Chinese, Nordic, etc. influences are also common. That’s one of the best things about arrow designs. They can be extremely simple (just a few lines), or can be expanded into beautifully complex pieces; they work for everyone, from the tattoo newbie all the way up to hardcore ink veterans.

Arrow and Blind Raven Tattoo on inner arm

Arrow and Raven Tattoo by @jeanleroux

Bow and Arrow Tattoo Meaning

Bow-and-arrow tattoos are often compositionally beautiful designs. A bow-and-arrow piece with the arrow launching away from the bow can symbolize a positive move forward in life, away from a negative force that has been holding you back. In this regard bow-and-arrow tattoos are also reminiscent of the duality of life; just like an arrow can only be shot after being pulled back, you can often only find yourself in a better situation by fighting through darker times. A bow-and-arrow can also be symbolic of the zodiac sign Sagittarius.

Colorful Bow and Arrow Tattoo

Bow and Arrow Tattoo by @edko0102

Indian Arrow Tattoo Meaning

Arrows are heavily used in Native American symbolism. Like we mentioned before, arrows aren’t specific to Native American culture, but you can add the influence in your tattoo design by pairing arrows with other common Native American symbols like dreamcatchers or arrowheads.

Indian Arrow on outer forearm

Indian Arrow Tattoo by @russellbalchin_tattoos

3 Arrow Tattoo Meaning

A bundle of three or more arrows can sometimes represent strength. Similar to the metaphor of the three strands of cord taken from biblical scripture, the thought is that a bundle of arrows is more difficult to break than a single arrow on its own. This tattoo can be used to indicate personal strength, but is also a great choice for honoring the combined strength of loved ones who help support you in your life.

Three Crossed Arrows Tattoo

Three Arrow Tattoo by @stellamayvlad

Two Arrow Tattoo Meaning

The image of two arrows-particularly if they are facing away from each other- is a common sign of war. So a two-arrow tattoo can be symbolic of victory over a conflict in your life, or represent a strong, fighting spirit.

two arrows tattoo meaning

Two arrows tattoo by @livmorgantattoo

Single Arrow Tattoo Meaning

A single arrow can often mean defense or protection against harm. It can also be a metaphor for receiving guidance or direction in life. While arrows are considered traditionally masculine, single-arrow tattoos have become popular with people from every gender. Their simple design makes them great as smaller pieces (using arrows as micro-tattoos has been on trend lately), or they can be easily woven into a larger, more complex piece.

A variant of this tattoo featuring the quote “Follow Your Arrow” has become popular in recent years. A follow-your-arrow tattoo is tied in with the idea of guidance, but more strictly relates to being true to yourself in all areas of your life. It can also be connected with the notion of following your heart or your dreams.

Blackwork geometric arrow tattoo

Single Arrow Tattoo by @weschetattoo

Broken Arrow Tattoo Meaning

If two arrows mean war, then what does a broken arrow tattoo mean? Typically, a broken arrow symbolizes peace. A broken arrow tattoo can be representative of finding inner peace in your life, or of healing a feud between you and someone you care for. An arrow facing down also happens to be a symbol for peace.

Broken Indian Arrow Tattoo

Broken Arrow Tattoo by @emantattooer

Crossed Arrow Tattoo Meaning

Similar to the broken arrow, the image of two crossed arrows often means friendship. This makes a great, understated friendship tattoo that works well for both men and women.

Two Arrows Crossed tattoo on inner arm

Crossed Arrows Tattoo by @and_earth

Geometric Arrow Tattoo Meaning

One of the most common geometric arrow tattoo designs is that of an arrow piercing through a diamond; this can be mean courage in the journey forward through life. The additional context of a single arrow can also represent protection from harm as you delve into the unknown adventures of the future.

Geometric arrow tattoo on inner arm

Geometric Arrow Tattoo by @weschetattoo

Infinity Arrow Tattoo Meaning

People sometimes use an arrow combined with an infinity symbol as an icon of never-ending friendship or camaraderie. This can be done as an arrow piercing through a separate infinity symbol, or with the arrow itself twisted into an infinity sign.

Heart Arrow Tattoo Meaning

Arrow through heart tattoo by @mikepopetattoo

Arrow through heart tattoo by @mikepopetattoo

If the heart wasn’t already obvious enough, the heart-and-arrow tattoo is a strong symbol for love. Arrows are associated with Cupid, the god of love; they are considered one of the more masculine symbols because of the precision, strength, and speed it takes to fire one correctly.

Arrow and Feather Tattoo Meaning

Arrows featuring colorful feathers can often indicate pride or vanity, though that is not always the case. Feathers can add a more feminine twist to the typically masculine arrow design, and are a great way to work in some color if you’re not into the black-and-white style.

Arrow and Feather Tattoo on Collarbone

Arrow and Feather Tattoo by @ferrousik

Arrow Tattoo Placement

It is extremely common to see arrows tattoos on the wrist or forearm, as they are generally smaller and easy to cover up if need be for a job, etc. Having an arrow tattooed on your finger can strengthen the concept of getting direction for your life, particularly if you use the pointer/ index finger. The ribcage, spine, and back of the neck are other popular places for arrow designs.

In Summary:

Arrows and other archery-based tattoos make great ink designs for just about everyone, whether you’re new to the tattoo scene or already covered head-to-toe in artwork. Here’s a quick summary of what arrow tattoos mean, in case you missed something:

- Moving forward (bow and arrow, forward-facing arrow)

- Duality (bow and arrow)

- Strength (3 arrows or more)

- War or a fighting spirit (2 arrows faced away from each other)

- Defense/ Protection (single arrow)

- Guidance (single arrow)

- Being true to yourself (single arrow)

- Peace (broken arrow, downward facing arrow)

- Friendship (crossed arrow, infinity arrow)

- Love (heart arrow)

- Pride (arrow and feather)


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