Tattoos and Body Art
Symbolism and Symbolic Meanings

What is the symbolic meaning of a sparrow tattoo?



User Avatar
Wiki User

Back in the days of the tall ships, sailors would get a sparrow tattoo for crossing a sea, i.e., from the US to England. A seaman with 5,000 miles or more under his belt earned the right to a sparrow tattoo. Some called it a swallow. There you go.

More answers from WikiAnswers contributors:

  • It may not mean anything, but I know a lot of men in the UK who have bird tattoos on their hands and wrists have been released from prison. The sparrows symbolize freedom.
  • I know of a gang that gets tattoos like that and they get them because it is their way of showing that they are free to do what they like and don't follow any rules but their own.
  • A sparrow is a symbol of finding your true love.
  • Having three sparrows on my body, one singing a song symbolizing Freedom and the other two diving toward a nautical star representing freedom to love and to find your true love. A sparrow is different from most birds, when they find their soul mate, they stay with them until their life's end.
  • Some tattoo artists get tattoos of sparrows somewhere on their body to draw evil away from their body, because they tattoo demons and anti-religious stuff everyday. They believe it will protect them and keep evil spirits away.
  • A sparrow for a safe journey a sparrow for a safe return and a banner from one beak to the other for every five thousand miles. I'm a sailor, I have sailor tats and the sparrows are a sailor tat. Makes sense though for ex-cons to get them for freedom. I like that idea, too.
  • Sailors earned the right to wear "blue birds of happiness" tattoos on either side of their chest after having crossed the Equator.
  • Sparrows can mean all/any of the following: eternity, luck, innocence. Sparrows are also known for traveling great distances, but always returning home. The way the sparrow is pictured also defines a lot about its' meaning.
  • The tat may have a religious significance. See Matthew 10:29, which reads "Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father."
  • I don't think that it has its OWN meaning, when i was 16, my first tattoo was different birds flying up my stomach, each one, to me, represented a family member or close friend of mine that had passed away. The sparrow represents my grandpa, because its said that they are wise birds that "resemble" peace, safety etc..
  • Sparrow (swallows, you may be confused with) are traditional nautical/Navy tattoos that signify that the sailor has traveled a certain amount in his life. Same with Nautical stars.
  • In the old days, before GPS, sailors would follow birds to land. There was an old sailor's legend about one particular captain who would recognize the sparrow as native to his home. The sparrow would signify his coming home. The tattoo is supposed to help lead you home.
  • I have two sparrows on my chest - the devil and the angel symbolizing good and evil in all of us. But I chose sparrows due to the fact that it also symbolized freedom and loyalty. It was like symbolizing " being true to thy self."
  • They are old sailor tattoos. You would get the first one after traveling 5,000 miles and the second after traveling another 5,000.
  • The sparrow tattoo was designed by Sailor Jerry. He also designed/originated the love mom tattoos as well as his own brand of rum.
  • Sparrows symbolize love, dedication and trust. Sparrows mate for life and will always return home no matter how far they travel. They should always be tattooed in pairs. Sparrow tattoos are often confused with Blue swallows. Swallows were often tattooed on sailors to symbolize a safe return home. When a sailor saw a swallow at sea, he knew he was near land. If the swallow is tattooed on the sailor's upper chest near his shoulder, it represents 5,000 nautical miles sailed.
  • I have one sparrow on each side of my neck, one with its head curled back/up and the other with it facing forward. The one looking back/up, to me, means I'm letting go of the past and the one facing forward is the obvious opposite, live in the present and deal with what's coming not what's already gone.
  • Another less-used meaning dates back to Ancient Egypt. The Egyptians associated sparrows/swallows with the stars and believed that they caught the souls of those who have passed (hence "living" on as stars). I have two on my back, one on each shoulder blade, with the left representing those I have lost in the past and the right representing those I'll lose in the future.
  • I'm thinking about getting a sparrow tattoo, There are so many meanings for it, But mine's completely personal. Im German, and I have lots of memories visiting my grandparents there. I used to watch the sparrows with my oma. She used to love them. She passed away a year ago. I want to get one in memory of her. But also, My parents have such a strong marriage and and have pet names, my dad calls my mom "spatz" which means sparrow in German. But that's just my opinion on sparrow tattoos.

Sparrows and swallow tattoos are often grouped as the same thing....

swallows were gotten by pirates when they travel over 100,000 miles or over the equator and back, they would ge one on the way one on the way back... (often done on collarbones) they have a symbolism of "safe travel/safe return"

they also are a symbol of true love (more so with swallows) but swallows mate for life, and no matter where each of them are in the world, once a year they both meet up in the Galapagos Islands to mate.... amongst millions of other birds, all over the world, they find each other.

-What most of this is talking about is Swallows, not sparrows. Oold sailors would tattoo one swallow for 5,000 miles, until they had their 2 swallows, after that they would do stars, often on the hands or in the ears. The crossing of the equator has little to do with the swallows. Crossiing the equator would generally be remembered with a tattoo of Neptunus Rex, or some manner of turtle, to represent the order fo the Shellback. Like most sailor-esque tattoos, its a good luck token. By all means, any tattoo is whatever you want it to mean, do it for you.

+1 ^ the crossing the line( equator) has nothing to do with the sparrows,or swallows. crossing the equator is when a sailor goes from being a slimy polly-wog (landlubber) to a mighty shellback-after a two day initiation; a day of wog uprising and rebelion,and the next day wich is the actual initiation and going before King Neptune.

The Sparrows were not a Sailor Jerry design,nor were the nautical stars-though he made them 'popular' and 'cool' to have.They have been around for a very long time. Much longer than most people know. As sailors travled by sea, swallows were seen flying above when land came closer. So a swallow in flight is a sign of land ahead or "safe return home".

It fully depends on who you ask. My favorite one I have ever heard was it was originally gotten by seamen to symbolize a safe journey home because when you saw the birds it meant you were close to shore. I have heard they also mean freedom and a few other things. Some people just get them because they look cool too.