Swallow Tattoo Designs & Their Meaning

Swallow tattoos symbolize travel and freedom, as well as returning home. Once used by sailors to show sailing prowess, swallow tattoos now come in all shapes and sizes with a variety of designs and colors.

You can choose from a simple black and grey swallow tattoo or opt for a more colorful variant with a compass in the background. When it comes to getting a swallow inked, the placement and design are of crucial importance as the meaning can change depending on where you have it inked.

We’ve compiled a list of the different types of swallow tattoos and their placements for you to peruse and pick a tattoo that resonates with you!

Meaning of Swallow Tattoos

The most popular inference of the swallow tattoo is travel. According to British folklore, sailors would get the swallow inked to commemorate the distance they had traveled across the seas and as a talisman for safe travels. The sailors would get tattoos of swallows with the belief that it would help them return home safe, just as the swallows do every year.

With most Millenials dreaming of traveling the world, this tattoo design has gained popularity over the last decade. Signifying travel, fidelity and loyalty, this is one of those unique tattoos that can resonate with and work for both the sexes. The bird can also represent rebirth and a fresh start to life.

According to Christian folklore, the swallow was present during the crucifixion of Christ and gained its coloring from the blood spilled by Christ. Many choose to get a swallow inked on their skin to pay homage to a loved one or to express freedom.

Depending on the area you get this tattoo inked, the meaning can differ. Swallow tattoos on the fists would signify someone who had swift fists and fighting prowess. The same tattoo inked on the wrist would denote a woman’s love for family, freedom from affliction and rebirth.

Popular Swallow Tattoo Designs

Since swallows come in a variety of styles and colors, the possibilities of tattoo designs are almost endless. Let’s take a look at some popular swallow tattoo designs and the meaning they convey through their placement.

Swallow Tattoo With a Compass

If you’re looking for an uber-cool design that signifies traveling and a safe return home, this tattoo with a compass is the perfect fit. Since swallows are migratory birds that fly long distances, the tattoo can also mean returning home after an arduous trial in life.

Colored Swallow Tattoos

For those who want to showcase their colorful side, the watercolor swallow tattoo should be the one that resonates. The vibrance of the colors paired with the symbolism of the bird is a great combination to showcase your personality.

A black and white swallow tattoo is usually associated with an individual’s proficiency in sailing, whereas a red and black tattoo signifies adventure and a victory gained after hardship. 

You can also choose a watercolor swallow tattoo to signify your triumph over great hardship. If you’re someone who has beaten a certain disease and survived, you can get a swallow tattoo with the color used for raising awareness for that specific disease (e.g., pink for breast cancer).

Two Swallows Flying Together

Since swallows mate for life, they also symbolize love and loyalty to family. Two swallows flying together is the perfect couple tattoo to signify long journeys and adventures in the path of life.

You can choose to add a flair to the symbolic gesture and personalize it at the same time by adding different colors to the two birds.

A Single Swallow

A favorite of all travelers, this tattoo signifies freedom and a keen sense of adventure. The placement of the tattoo is also extremely important—most people choose to get it done on the neck or shoulder as it has a higher vantage point. This signifies the will to travel far and wide!

A Single (Or Two Swallows) With a Flower

If you want your tattoo to portray the softer side of you, you can choose a swallow tattoo accompanied by a flower of your choice. A rose (depending on the color) can signify love in its various forms, a daisy can symbolize purity and innocence.

This is a great way to add a personal touch to the tattoo while also adding depth to its meaning. Since you can choose from a variety of different swallows and flowers, the possibilities are almost endless!

A Banner With Writing Next to the Bird/Birds

We all have a text or a quote that has resonated with the core of our being. If you want to add words that have inspired you or just a line that is quintessentially you, this is a great option. You could even choose to add a date or the name of a loved one to add to the banner!

Popular Color Combinations and Their Meaning

When you delve into the world of color, there are endless possibilities as far as swallow tattoos are concerned. You could opt for a magical touch to the tattoo with a variation of vibrant colors or play it simple with a black and grey bird. Although there are certain colors that people opt for, you have complete creative freedom to choose what you want!

As we discussed earlier, you could choose the color of a disease that you’ve overcome to signify victory over adversity while also creating awareness of the disease.

Swallow tattoos with vibrant colors are often associated with springtime and flower blooming. Colors like red or orange can depict a sense of aggressiveness and adventure whereas colors such as green and bright yellow may denote prosperity and a bright future.

The color you choose may also depend on the type of swallow you choose. The barn swallow, for example, features a white belly, an orange face and a blue back. Depending on what story you want your ink to narrate, you can pick and choose different colors to add to your tattoo.

Common Body Areas and Placements

Most tattoo ideas push the boundaries of artistic creativity and symbolism. This is even more so true in regards to a swallow tattoo. This is one of the few rare tattoo designs that’s connotation changes according to its placement. Swallows placed on the fists denote martial prowess and were often inked on to street fighters to signify swift fists. This can also depict victory in fighting with life itself.

Placed on the wrist, the same tattoo can represent love for family, overcoming adversity and freedom. Depending on the size of the tattoo you want and the meaning you want it to convey, you can choose from a plethora of options. If you’re aiming to get a large piece inked, the shoulders, back, and chest are some ideal options for you.

With smaller swallow tattoos, you have a variety of options to choose from, including the wrists, feet, calves, forearms, neck and chest. You should always take into consideration that even though this is the norm, like with all things artistic, you can infer your own meaning or symbolism from your tattoo.

At the end of the day, it’s you who’s going to have the ink on their skin and not the viewer, so choose something that makes you happy and that you can live with for decades to come!

Best Swallow Tattoos