Dragon Tattoos & Their Meaning

The word Dragon is derived from the Greek word drákōn, which literally translates into “huge serpent” and “one who sees clearly”, as well as the Latin word draconem meaning “huge serpent”. The creature has strong ties with several cultures worldwide including European folklore, Middle Eastern and Asian mythologies.  The meaning of the dragon symbol varies greatly depending on the specific culture. For example in Eastern cultures the dragon is associated with many positive attributes, while in western cultures the dragon is often associated with negative attributes.

Dragon Tattoo Meaning

Choosing to get a dragon tattoo may convey a strong message. The most common meanings are:

Eastern Meanings of Dragon Tattoos

  • Wisdom
  • Longevity
  • Strength and Power
  • Courage
  • Tranquillity, Mediation, and the Sub-conscious
  • Spirituality
  • Creation and Destruction. Dragons create life through Fire and destroy with it ice, poison, and Fire.
  • Master of the Natural elements – Fire, Water, Air (flies), and Earth (lives in caves)
  • Masculinity
  • Prosperity
  • Independance
  • Desire and Sexual Passion
  • Potential
  • Duality
  • Luck
  • Protection
  • Freedom

Western Meanings of Dragon Tattoos

  • Greed
  • Immorality
  • Chaos
  • Bad Omen
  • Fear

Dragon Tattoo Designs Variations 

There are many different kinds of dragons and each one has its own meaning. Colors also play a role in the dragon tattoo’s meaning.

  • Chinese Dragons: Symbolize power, strength, and fear.
  • Horned Dragons: Are known as the top dragons, strongest of all.
  • Celestial Dragons: Protectors of the Gods and heavens.
  • Earth Dragons: Also found in Chinese astrology, are the kind that rule the earth.
  • Yellow Dragons: Are hornless and known for their knowledge.
  • Treasure Dragons: Are the protectors of precious gems and other valuable earthly elements.
  • Spiritual Dragons: Are in total control of the wind and rain.
  • Coiling Dragons: Are the ones that live in the oceans.

There are six dragons in the Japanese culture. Each one has its own meaning.

  • Han-Riu: Has stripes all over its body, and is one of the biggest dragons with lengths up to forty feet.
  • Kai-Riu: A beautiful red-colored dragon, and is usually smaller than the others.
  • Sue-Riu: Is the king of all dragons, and is in control of the rain.
  • Ri-Riu: Is known to be a very rare breed and hard to find. Little is known about it, but it does have amazing eyesight.
  • Hai-Riyo: Is known as a dragon bird, and is one of the most advanced forms of dragons. It evolved out of Chinese mythology.
  • Fuku Riu: Is the most favored dragon of all, known for good luck.

The colors of the dragon also have meanings. Certain colors represent certain attributes.

  • Black: Means that the parents are old and wise.
  • Green: Is usually associated with smaller dragons. It also represents life and earth.
  • Blue: Is associated with those from the West and represents laziness, compassion, and forgiveness.
  • Yellow: Is associated with those from the East and those who are self-centered and helpful.
  • Gold: Has great attributes, such as wisdom, kindness, and helpfulness.

Dragons have flown in and out of almost every cultural myth and legend. They’re even mentioned in the Bible.  It is hard to think of a culture or mythology that does not include some mention or representation of the dragon. Maybe that is why it is still such a popular symbol and subject of tattoos today.

Dragon Tattoo

Dragon Tattoo Designs

Dragon tattoos are popular and powerful designs worn by both women and men. They can be designed in various sizes, however due to the detailing and shading involved in most depictions they often make this tattoo a larger-sized project. Some of the attributes and traits associated with the dragon are strength, courage, and independence.

One of the great features of the dragon tattoo is that it can be done in a variety of different styles from realistic or abstract to cartoonish or dramatic. They may be done in solid ink and follow the tribal style of tattooing or be done in full bright colors as is often the case with Chinese or Japanese depictions.

The dragon’s shape can fit a wide variety of different locations on the body, although its most popular placement is on or near the shoulder. Among the Chinese, it is not unusual to see full body tattoos, which incorporate other symbols.

The Symbolic Message of the Dragon Is…

Despite have a wide range of meanings, if one were to synthesize one single main message of the dragon tattoo, it would be a message of courage, strength, mastering life’s journey and freedom.

“There are precious few symbols that illustrate extreme possibility and polarity as the dragon does” ~ Avia

“Always speak politely to an enraged dragon” ~ Steven Brust

“It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations if you live near him.” ~ J.R.R. Tolkien

“I’m kind of honored to be a dragon lady. The dragon is a very powerful mythical animal.” ~ Yoko Ono

What a Dragon Tattoo May Tell about You

It is hard to generalize about the type of person who gets a dragon tattoo. What makes this so difficult is the wide range of meanings and the extreme cultural differences between the East and West. Because there is so much variation, ultimately dragon tattoos are what we establish them to be.

Despite having grown up in a western culture, I have always resonated more with the Eastern meanings of dragon symbols. Therefore I see dragons and dragon tattoos as being very positive.  Their combination of both earth and spirit, positive and negative also remind me of another favorite Eastern symbol the Yin Yang; the ultimate symbol of balance between opposites.

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