The Meaning of Dragon Tattoos

Dragon Symbolism, Dragon Tattoos -

The Meaning of Dragon Tattoos

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Deciphering the meaning of dragon tattoos is no walk in the park given how rich and complex the symbolism of this creature is. Still, we'll give it our best shot!

The dragon has always had a very strong symbolic power in most countries and cultures. Though its representation varies, some of its characteristics are universal. In general dragons (and dragon tattoos) are associated with strength, wisdom, prosperity, good luck as well as masculinity.

Yeah, that's quite a long and generic list but don't worry, we're about to get more specific. Since dragon tattoos come in a wide variety of styles, we have selected the most common designs to explore their meaning in details.

Chinese Dragon Tattoo Meaning

Dragons are the most revered creatures of Chinese mythology. Back in the days of imperial China, the dragon was the symbol of the emperor who was the only person allowed to make representations of dragons. It was even used on the flag of the Qing Dynasty from 1862 to 1912.

In terms of meaning a Chinese dragon tattoo represents: strength, power, wisdom, longevity, and good luck. As opposed to the western dragon, Chinese dragons are not violent; they are considered as protectors and helpful to mankind.

Quick fact: Chinese dragons are almost always depicted as ascending toward the sky. A dragon going downward is seen as a bad omen.

Chinese Dragon Tattoo

Western Dragon Tattoo Meaning

In Western traditions, the dragon has the opposite connotation of its Oriental counterpart. It's usually a powerful and frightening monster that is not to be messed with.

In Greek and Nordic mythologies, fighting a dragon was a way for men to become true heroes. A western dragon tattoo can therefore be a sign of power and courage which are the qualities of the knights who fought dragons.

It's also a symbol of masculinity and fighting spirit, which is why Vikings adorned the head of their drakkars with dragon representations.

Western Dragon Tattoo on the Back

By the way, do you know what goes hand in hand with a badass dragon tattoo? That's right, an epic dragon ring! So if you have a minute or two, have a look at our rings, we've got a great collection of silver and steel dragon jewelry. What's more, readers of this article can get 10% off their order with the discount code TATTOO10, isn't that sweet! Just click the image below. 👇

The Dragon Shop's collection of dragon rings

Japanese Dragon Tattoo Meaning

Dragons are among the most important creatures in Japanese culture. It was even thought that the first Japanese emperor was the descendant of dragons. They are usually aquatic creatures although, a few Japanese legends describe flying dragons that live in the sky.

In Japan, dragons represent the protection of family and loved ones, the protection of the home as well as power and longevity. The Japanese dragon is really seen as a guardian and bringer of happiness.
Therefore, a Japanese dragon tattoo perfectly fits a person who is strong and will stand out to help or protect others around him.

Quick fact: Japanese dragon tattoos often include elements such as waves or water. The reason? Water represents life for Japanese as well as being the natural habitat of dragons.

A Japanese Dragon Tattoo

Celtic Dragon Tattoo Meaning

Celtic dragons differ from Western dragons in that they are neither evil nor demonic. In fact, they were considered as guardians of the universe's secrets. For this reason, they are among the most powerful Celtic symbols. Such dragons have appeared on flags, armors and clothing for thousands of years.

A Celtic dragon tattoo is linked with wisdom, balance and spirituality. The dragon's body is usually drawn with many intertwined knots to show the ups and downs of life. They are also often drawn with the mouth biting the tail to represent the cycle of life that repeats itself over and over again.

The design of Celtic dragons allows for impressive tribal dragon tattoos, with their complex curls and knots.

Celtic Dragon Tattoo

Dragon and Tiger Tattoo Meaning 🐅

In Chinese folklore, the dragon and the tiger are mortal enemies. They are often represented fighting one another. Although they both represent concepts such as strength, power and passion, they have very different ways of interacting with the world. The dragon has an element of wisdom and focuses on understanding the fundamentals of the world. The tiger on the other hand, relies on brute force to accomplish his goals.

For a tattoo, the relative positions of the two creatures is very important. A dragon defeating or placed above a tiger represents protection and the victory of good over evil. On the other hand, if the dragon is defeated by the tiger or the tiger is represented above the dragon it symbolizes conflict and the victory of evil.

However, many people get tattoos of these two beings fighting each other, without one having the advantage over the other. This represents the balance between two immense forces. A perfect equilibrium between good and evil, just like the symbol of Yin and Yang.

Dragon vs Tiger Tattoo

Dragon and Koi Tattoo Meaning

The elements of this tattoo have a strong link with Asia, especially Japan. The koi carp is brave, strong and able to face the most difficult situations without any sign of fear. According to Eastern legends, if a koi carp was able to swim upstream and climb the great falls of the Dragon Gate (on the Yellow River), it would become a dragon.

A tattoo with a dragon and a koi represents perseverance and progress through hard work, since the koi carp becomes powerful only after it has completed its challenge.

A tattoo representing a koi carp turning into a dragon

Dragon and Phoenix Tattoo Meaning

The phoenix is a creature that is consumed and magically reborn from its ashes. Its symbolizes rebirth, redemption and the ability to get up when you are at the bottom.

A phoenix tattoo can also be tied to a particular event in one's life. It can mean that the person has had a difficult or even tragic experience, but has recovered from it. In this sense, it symbolizes surpassing oneself.

Dragon and phoenix are very complementary animals which is why they are often associated to create unique tattoo designs.

Dragon and Phoenix Tattoo

Dragon and Snake Tattoo Meaning

The snake embodies good health and is a symbol of regenerative power. It is also seen as a symbol of evil and misfortune in some cultures.

Most tattoos depict dragons and snakes as deadly enemies. Snakes are associated with healing (which is why they are the symbol of medicine ⚕️). On the other hand, dragons are driven by the primary forces of nature and the natural elements. In that sense, dragon and snake tattoos symbolize the conflict between intelligence and intuition, the modern against the traditional and society versus nature.

Dragon and Snake fighting Tattoo


Congrats on making it to the end of this article! As you can see, the meaning of a dragon tattoo can vary a lot depending on the style and the culture it was inspired of.

One thing is certain though: underneath the aesthetics of a dragon tattoo, there is often a deep meaning that tells a part of the life of the person who wears it.


  • Shelley Dumire

    I greatly enjoyed this article & the useful & as best I can tell, accurate representation of the history of dragon tattoos from many cultures. Thank you So much for being thorough.

  • Michael McDaniel

    I’m Scots-Irish so you gave me a great deal of information to think about in my Faith… Much of my prior beliefs said that Dragons were inherently mean and horrible. What I got from your article was the concept that they are the essence which includes both light and dark. Thanks

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