All Naval Tattoos Have Their Meaning

A Swallow

One swallow is earnt for every 5,000 nautical miles travelled. If you see a sailor with 4 swallows, they have theoretically circumnavigated the globe.

All Naval Tattoos Have Their Meaning

An Anchor

Perhaps the most iconic sailor tattoo, it means that a seaman has either crossed the Atlantic Ocean or has been in the Merchant Marriner carrying military supplies in civilian vessels.

All Naval Tattoos Have Their Meaning

Rope around the wrist.

Simply infers that the wearer is a deckhand.

All Naval Tattoos Have Their Meaning

Crossed Cannons

Denotes that a sailor has seen military service.

All Naval Tattoos Have Their Meaning

A Fully-Rigged Ship

Denotes that the sailor has traversed Cape Horn, an infamously stormy passage around the tip of South America.

All Naval Tattoos Have Their Meaning

Hula Girl

Signifies that the sailor has been to Hawaii.

All Naval Tattoos Have Their Meaning

Crossed Anchors

A crossed anchor between the thumb and index finger identifies the seaman as a boatswain’s mate, someone who is charge of various aspects of the ship’s maintenance.

All Naval Tattoos Have Their Meaning

HOLD/FAST

Displayed across the knuckles or front facing fingers, this was a dedication that the sailor would never let go of the rigging and/or line (thus was reliable and wouldn’t let the team down).

All Naval Tattoos Have Their Meaning

A Nautical Star

A good luck charm so that the sailor can always find their way home.

All Naval Tattoos Have Their Meaning

Pig and Rooster

Worn on the feet, it was supposed to prevent the sailor from drowning in case of shipwreck. The thinking being that animal cargo would often survive such disasters, as their crates would keep them buoyant long enough to be rescued.

All Naval Tattoos Have Their Meaning

Compass Rose

A good luck charm that allows the sailor to find their way home.

All Naval Tattoos Have Their Meaning

Dagger Through a Rose

A sign of loyalty to the cause, denoting a willingness to fight even something as beautiful as a rose.

All Naval Tattoos Have Their Meaning

A Dragon

The sailor has been to China.

All Naval Tattoos Have Their Meaning

A Harpoon

Indicates the sailor has been in the whaling or fishing fleet.

All Naval Tattoos Have Their Meaning

A Palm Tree

In the US Navy, it represents those sailors who have served in Hawaii. In the Royal Navy (of the UK), it traditionally denotes service in the Mediterranean Sea.

All Naval Tattoos Have Their Meaning

A Shellback Turtle

Allowed to be worn when a sailor has crossed the Equator, and thus had been inducted into King Neptune’s Court. Speaking of…

All Naval Tattoos Have Their Meaning

King Neptune

The god of the sea in Ancient Roman theology, Neptune on a sailor’s skin denotes that he is no longer a Pollywog (those who have never crossed the Equator), but now a Shellback (hence the previous tattoo of the same meaning) or a Son of Neptune.

All Naval Tattoos Have Their Meaning
 Credits: Izismile