Dagger Tattoo Designs & Their Meaning
The symbolic dagger tattoo is one of the most common inking designs out there. This may seem out of the ordinary because daggers are dangerous weapons, so why get inked with one?
A dagger tattoo can be tweaked to express a wide range of emotions, ideas, and personalities. The illustration is also commonly used along bigger and more elaborate art to add detail and enhance an underlying meaning—designs and their interpretations are endless.
Tattoos and Daggers
Over time, larger and heftier short swords evolved to be less conspicuous to carry and more comfortable to draw, if the need ever arose. Dagger styles vary across the world, from the wavy Malayan kris to the triangle-bladed Hindu katar.
Similarly, using our bodies as a canvas for art is nothing new. In countries such as Japan, tattoos hold cultural significance.
The Maoris have been getting their notoriously painful traditional tattoos for centuries. Historians believe that as far back as ancient Egypt, getting inked was associated with various phenomena from divine connections to healing.
Tattoo needles and daggers are at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to their effects on pain. As much as a stabbing wound can kill you, tattoos can minimize psychological grief in the process of commemorating and honoring someone we lost.
A Guide to the Dagger as a Symbol
Despite the dagger’s association with violence, its tattoos can represent more than a mere weapon. Below are a few reasons why people may associate these illustrations with more gentle interpretations.
Daggers in Literature
Our fascination with daggers is well-represented in popular literature pieces. Who hasn’t heard of William Shakespeare’s infamous star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet?
Let’s not forget; when they do take their lives, they do so with Juliet’s dagger, which makes not one but three appearances in the play:
- Juliet first uses it to show the persistence of love—by coaxing Friar Lawrence, which brings her to, you guessed it—marry Romeo.
- She brandishes it once again when she’s about to take the vial full of false poison, symbolizing contemplation.
- When she kills herself, mistaking her lover for dead—signifying a loss of love.
Tattoos are a modern form of self-expression, which it’s inevitably borrowed from existing literature. Romeo and Juliet is a vibrant expression of the symbolism attached to daggers that also influences how dagger tattoos are interpreted today.
With a few alterations, like crowning the design with a bright red heart, the art may imply a love worth fighting for. There’s also the classic “knife in the back” theme throughout classic literature, representing betrayal.
Gateway Into the Unknown
A similar non-violent association of the dagger is seen in Tarot— where the Suit of Swords unveils the world of intellect. The sighting of a sword not only speaks of perceptiveness, but also demonstrates action, power, decisions, and solutions. Psychic services are on the rise in the USA, and this encourages alternative interpretations of daggers in tats.
You can use other illustrations to emphasize the meaning of your dagger tattoo. How about inking more Tarot symbology onto your arm to elaborate that you advocate daggers only as an expression of intellect?
What Is the Best Design for a Dagger Tattoo?
Even though the possibilities are endless, the most common designs of a dagger tattoo include:
A classic choice—the pierced heart utilizes the universal imagery of a wounded soul to symbolize unexpected betrayal and loss.
Depending on the reasoning behind the tattoo, the heart can have different colors to signify its state before the betrayal took place. Appropriate colors for the art are red, black, and white, which add to the meaning.
Pierced Black Heart
This may signify a betrayed heart that’s dead with grief. If only portions of the illustration are black, it may mean you’re healing from betrayal, depending on the color schemes. If the black ink on the heart spreads from where the dagger cuts through the organ, that would suggest a recent betrayal or loss.
On the other hand, if the red of the heart is illustrated to overwhelm the black, that suggests that you’re recovering from betrayal or other similar misfortune.
Pierced White Heart
This tat is symbolic of the loss of innocence or the betrayal of what’s innocent and pure. In religious circles, it’s used to illustrate sacrifice. Depending on the objects surrounding the art, meaning can vary.
If the design has white flowing from the wound, it may suggest betrayal that didn’t faze the betrayed. Depending on the context of the art, this could easily be interpreted as a heart that suffered loss or betrayal but won’t let the misfortune define it.
Pierced Red Heart
When the heart is pierced, but retains its color, this suggests perseverance. It may also be interpreted as a willingness to move beyond loss and misfortune. If, however, the heart bleeds, that is just an emphasis on the pain that loss and betrayal come with.
These tats need not be sad, however. They could be used as reminders of how deeply our actions affect those around us—a constant reminder to be mindful of our words and deeds.
Snake Wrapped Around the Dagger
The snake wrapped around a dagger can often be seen on pharmacy logos and in connection to medicine. For anyone who wants to have a tattoo that represents healing and recovery, this is a wonderful idea.
It can also serve as motivation when you’re fighting chronic diseases. Research has shown tattoos to be especially helpful for breast cancer patients.
Dagger and Rose
The rose is symbolic of peace, indicating the purity of love. When the dagger appears alongside the flower, the blade’s meaning takes a darker turn. These two illustrations occur as opposites—they may be used to signify the eternal fight between good and evil.
The ink may also point toward the balance in the universe: think matter and antimatter, male and female, positive and negative, and the like. This is a good art choice if you enjoy the yin and yang ideology, but don’t want the cliché Tai Chi symbol.
Minor alterations could be used to make the art more optimistic or darker. If the rose is made more elaborate than the dagger, the tat is considered bullish. If the blade seems to overwhelm the flower, the design comes off as more pessimistic.
Popular Color Combinations for Dagger Tattoos
The colors you can see most often used for a dagger tattoo are:
Play around with the colors to make the tat stand out. When the dagger tattoo is used to increase the detail of a bigger and more elaborate ink design, go for bright colors. This should make the features more prominent and allow for the emphasis of any underlying theme. You may opt to go all black, however, if you want the dagger to carry a more sinister appeal.
Common Dagger Tattoo Locations
The cylindrical shape of the dagger complements the limbs. That’s why you almost always see these tats on the hands or the legs. If you want a more elaborate design, go for the back—it has significant real estate, and it makes a great canvas.
Clichés can be frustrating to hear, but when illustrated in tat form, they make for excellent designs. A knife to heart or back illustration can be enhanced by making it seem that the blade is already halfway in.
With an appropriate reduction of size, there’s practically nowhere this ink won’t go. Some people go for smaller designs on their fingers, under the eyes, behind the ears, and under the mouth. This gives new meaning to the sharp tongue, eye, and ear.
Placement usually boils down to preference and size of the desired art piece. If your profession doesn’t take too kindly to tattoos, you may want to keep your daggers out of sight—in the spirit of concealment.