Sparrow Tattoo – Deep Meaning of a Sparrow Design

These lovely birds populate the world with their cute chirps and songs. Their ubiquity lends them a large amount of myths, legends, symbols, and spiritual meaning. The sparrow remains one of the most traditional tattoos in the world, but that doesn’t mean it’s a common copy-and-paste design. Rather, the sparrow represents something that anyone can find dear. In today’s article, let’s talk all about the deep meaning behind the sparrow, and show off a huge sparrow tattoo gallery! Make sure you use the best aftercare tattoo lotion to preserve your beautiful sparrow design. The Resources page has even more tattoo aftercare lifehacks. Please note that many of these tattoo images include swallows. Swallows are a different kind of bird, but since they share many meanings with sparrows, they show up here. Bird-lovers, enjoy!

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What Does a Sparrow Symbolize?

In ancient times, a lone sparrow represented loneliness and solitude. You can see this is old stories, including the Old Testament. Undying love, loyalty, and friendship encompass the feather design of a sparrow tattoo. As we spread out across the world, we realized that sparrows are everywhere—and once we knew that, they gained a new meaning. Freedom.

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See the R2D2?


Sailors would see migrating sparrows in the rafters of their ship and know they were close to land. On top of that, the company of a sparrow gave them comfort. After all, that sparrow could land wherever it pleased—but it chose their ship. Sailors who traveled more than 5,000 nautical miles would get a tattoo of a sparrow (or a swallow) to show their accomplishment. I doubt a seasoned sailor would need it, but if you desire a way to mitigate the pain of a tattoo session, look into lidocaine cream!



Sparrow Tattoo Position Meaning

The position of a sparrow adds to its meaning. Pairs of sparrows represent a completed journey, or perhaps love found. Two sparrows on the chest of a sailor represent a great accomplishment during their journeys, and two sparrows on the wrist of a sailor meant they were the saltiest sailors around. In England and Russia, a sparrow on the back of your hand is a reminder to stay on the right track. Most commonly, those exiting jail would get a sparrow design there. More than one sparrow design on your hands means that you have trouble staying out of the slammer.



Small Sparrow Tattoo

Now that we have the sparrow design meaning out of the way, let’s check out the application of these designs! Sparrow designs fall into four categories: realistic, traditional, neo traditional, and abstract. Realistic sparrows capture the beauty of the bird, and they usually mean love and loyalty, rather than referencing a journey. Neo traditional tattoos create a cartoony look for the birds and add some unnatural, but beautiful, colors. Abstract sparrow designs use watercolor ink techniques to create a colorful design that resembles painted-on art. If you only want a small sparrow tattoo because of the pain of a large tattoo, look into tattoo numbing cream.


Traditional Sparrow Tattoo

Traditional tattoos of sparrows get a little more complicated. Also called a Sailor Jerry tattoo, sailors have used this tattoo style since WWII. The style uses red, black, and yellow ink to paint a picture of a sparrow. The outlines are bold and toony, with the sparrow’s eyes sometimes appearing as a curled line, rather than an actual eye. If you’re interested in a traditional tattoo, seek out artists with experience in the art. Artists use special rules for traditional tattoos that they pass down through apprenticeships. If you are an artist, look into classic tattoo tables and tattoo artist stools to help you do your job.


Ultimately, these tiny birds offer a lot of meaning to us. Though common, they represent the highest form of freedom. They live wherever they please, fly across the entire world, and travel in large flocks. They are even freer to travel than we humans are! Sparrows remind us that no matter how small or trivial we may be in this world, we still live our lives with freedom. We all travel, we all love, and we all sing in our own ways. Perhaps a sparrow tattoo is the first step to finding the freedom of the sparrows. If you enjoyed this article check out our complete Tattoo Aftercare Guide or our fashion articles like “The Best Pit Bull T-Shirts“!




3 thoughts on “Sparrow Tattoo – Deep Meaning of a Sparrow Design”

  1. Sparrows and swallows are 2 different birds. You have both in your photo gallery. I do believe sailors are fond of SWALLOWS. Your galleries and information is innacturate.

    • They are indeed different birds, but in some regions people call them sparrows–to the extent that tattoo artists usually ink swallow tattoos when their client requests a sparrow. This gallery reflects that.
      Sparrows DID rest on ships, being excellent migrators, just like swallows did. Furthermore, they liked to nest on the ships and join the journey. That makes their meanings very similar, if not the same. Sailor Jerry preferred the more aesthetic swallows, though. I go into more depth on the swallow tattoo article, where I only focus on actual swallows.

  2. Beautiful ink work!! I’ve raised a sparrow that actually still hasn’t left my side here. Although everyday she is outside flying from trees … Then she wants back inside where she has a cage that is always open.. At night she sleeps on my chest.. I know that sounds strange but she likes to be close to me. She’s intelligent . watches and copies things that you do. I’ve never seen a more loving soul then this sparrow. ?


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