Animals, Love, Tattoos, Travel

Everything You Want to Know About Arrow Tattoo Designs & Meanings

What Does an Arrow Tattoo Mean?

Arrows are very old and familiar objects, probably recognizable by anyone who can speak. After all, they have existed since and were invented well before the wheel. Although the Neanderthals probably did not use arrows, the first humans did, which could explain what happened to the Neanderthals.
If we find someone who does not know what an arrow is, how would we explain it? It’s like a small spear that you shoot in the air – a long ball made of wood, stone, and feathers. But it’s more than that. This is a custom sculpture, an elegant geometric tool, as beautiful as it is useful and deadly.
The first bows and arrows give an insight into the origins of the human intellect. The fact that they were invented more than 71,000 years ago is proof that we, humans, started thinking and acting like modern people at the beginning of our evolution: understanding materials, observing physics, invent and use new technologies, find smarter ways to prevail and last.
A trick of human intelligence is to convert ideas into symbols. We like to translate big ideas into simple marks representing these elements, for example, how a musical note illustrates a particular sound and the action that a musician must perform to create it. Thus, the arrow of the weapon has turned into graphics that you see on the signs. Most keyboards offer an array of style options: ➡ ➸ ➮ ⌦ ⟿ ⭄ ⭆ ⇟ ⇪ ⤿ ⥁.

The arrow tattoo represents all this—history, utility, beauty, intellect—and more.

By Andrey Svetov Tattoo
By Andrey Svetov Tattoo

What Do Arrows (as in Weaponry) Represent?

The meaning of the arrow depends, of course, on how it is represented. Below you will find interpretations of many different arrow tattoo designs.

The arrow on a bow: A slotted arrow that is pulled on a rope may represent a high potential of preparation, a point of high tension, or a focus or an intense goal. If he has just been released from the bow, he marks the end of waiting and stillness, a sudden transition in motion and a forward momentum. An arrow can only shoot forward after being shot on the bow. It can also represent the momentary recession before an explosion of activity. A pointed arrow could also represent the zodiac sign of Sagittarius. A bow on your bow arm is a weapon or a perpetual defense at your fingertips.

Arrowhead: The tip of the arrow is, of course, the end of his business, the most deadly part This is also the part that will last the longest.

Arrow-Stabbed Heart: This symbol can evoke the bloody, painful and violent end of love, but it can also represent the Cupid’s arrow, as Cupid was the Roman god of erotic love and desire (aka Eros in the Greek mythology). anyone caught by his arrow fell immediately in love. A tattoo representing a part of the body pierced by an arrow could indicate that the wearer is in love.

By Hannah Pixie Snowdon
By Hannah Pixie Snowdon

Broken Arrow: A broken tree could represent pacifism or peace. If a shooter intentionally breaks an arrow, it may mean the end of the battle or the resolution to stop the fight. It could also mean helplessness or frustrated desire. Someone could make this drawing show that he is breaking with old patterns and starting from scratch.

Pack or Quiver of Arrows: This can mean that you are armed and ready to face any battle. This arsenal can be inked in an easily accessible place (on the arm, leg or back). The five arrows were the symbol of the five nations of the Iroquois League and represented strength, unity and common goals.

Compass Arrow: An arrow that bisects one of the compass points can represent a specific plane, path, pattern, or new direction. The addition of the compass turns the arrow into a guided missile capable of traveling a long distance and reaching its goal.

Cross Arrows: When the arrows intersect to form an X, it is traditionally a sign of friendship or truce. Many friends are tattooed with this motive.
Diamond-pointed arrow: As diamond is one of the hardest materials, a diamond arrowhead could be invincible.

Feather-Arrow: Feathers and arrows seem to go together, both aesthetically and symbolically. These are straight and fine things that transmit delicate precision. Feathers are traditionally used as fletching to guide arrows and fly them more accurately. Literally, the feather guides the arrow and symbolically, a bird can play the role of spiritual guide.

Pen-Arrow: Another pair of symbols that go well together and can cut equally. This symbol combines physical and verbal threats: pen marks on the page are mental, while arrows are physical.

Simple arrow: Just a well-targeted arrow. The isolated spire may represent self-defense or protection against harm, independence, power, purpose, direction or purpose. It could also be a phallic symbol.
Two hands pierced with the same arrow: brothers (or sisters) of blood, companions in arms, two people who faced the same battles or threats; they are bound by a violent past or share the same injuries.

Arrows and feathers, like pens and swords, are symbols that go well together.
Arrows and feathers, like pens and swords, are symbols that go well together. | Source

If you would hit the mark, you must aim a little above it: Every arrow that flies feels the pull of the earth.

— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The arrow icon, as familiar as its ancestor the weapon, has evolved meaning.
The arrow icon, as familiar as its ancestor the weapon, has evolved meaning. | Source

The Arrow Icon

The arrow is probably the most universally recognized symbol. Regardless of the airport where you land, wherever you are in the world, you will find arrows that will tell you where you need to go.

Graphical symbols use images to represent actions, objects, or ideas in an abstract way. Think about how sex is indicated on a bathroom sign or how to know which button to use to lower the brightness of your screen. Think of the number of different things that a simple arrow can express on an elevator button, a road sign or a map.

As discussed, these signs evolved from the first weapons. Although they look more docile than their ancestors, the graphic arrows evolved with many nuanced meanings. In other words, even if the arrow pointing towards you is not the one that can hurt, you still have to be careful. With only two lines or a few pixels, they indicate something important. What does the arrow icon tell you?

What Does a Graphic Arrow Mean?

  • It helps you find your way. It’s like a manicule or pointed finger telling you where to go. Compasses and maps have arrows to help you find north. Two lines (< or >) can tell you to go left, right, up, or down. The back button takes you one step back.
  • It tells you how to go. An arrow can tell you to merge, loop, go upstairs, turn clockwise. In other words, it gives physical clues for how to accomplish goals.
  • It’s an invitation to play. The play button, an arrow without a tail ▶️ tells your device to start or continue playing a game, song, or movie.
  • It allows you to control and navigate virtual space. Gamers know what those arrows mean.
  • It indicates who’s speaking or to whom we should listen. A speech bubble’s tail is like an arrow indicating who’s speaking.
  • Other things an arrow says: Get to the point. Go straight there. Pay attention to this. Here’s the spot. Here’s the next step.
  • Ideas conveyed by arrows: Direction. Motive. Movement. Play. Control. Purpose. Stop. Go. Intent. Penetration. Precision. Flow. Direction through time.

A tattoo of a graphic arrow might also convey all of these things.

By Marcus Hammer, Copenhagen, Denmark
By Marcus Hammer, Copenhagen, Denmark

In user experience design, the arrow can play multiple roles, depending on the circumstances, and it has a variety of meanings. It can focus our attention on a specific point, demonstrate action, indicate flow, and connect objects and information.

— Jonathan Follett, Beautiful Information

Which Direction Is the Arrow Pointing?

For tattoo design, it is very important to know where the arrow points. Here’s what different directions might mean.

Down: In Native American culture, an arrow pointing to the ground represents peace. He draws his eyes to the ground, indicating that there is something important underneath. It could mean being grounded or pointing to a buried object. An arrow tattoo pointing the arm towards the hand can indicate a flow of energy in the world (like an arrow pulled by the arm).

Upward: If it is pointing to the sky, it might remind you to look up and consider a larger image, an omniscient perspective, or a bird’s eye view. You could shoot an arrow in the sky to send a message or a warning.

Horizontal: This can mean the horizon itself, or the distance. There is an implied threat to anyone pointed by the arrow, so it may also indicate protection or defense.

Two arrows pointing in opposite directions: they often represent war or a conflict, facing two directions at once for an alert and vigilant defense. It may mean that someone is fighting someone or something in their life.

Two-headed arrow: As a sign placed at an intersection asking you to surrender the right-of-way or stop moving forward and turn right or left, this may indicate a crossroads or a decision to be made. The amphisbaena (from Greek Memphis, which means “in both directions” and “bainein“, “go”) is a mythological snake with a head at each end. This can show that someone is torn in two directions.

Circular: It can indicate the time (moving clockwise or counterclockwise), changing or returning from your place of origin. Ouroborus, a snake swallowing its own tail, a symbol of fullness and infinity.

It is up to us to know the goals we are looking for in life, because then, like archers aiming for a specific brand, we will be more likely to achieve what we want.

— Aristotle

Is the Arrow Stuck or Moving?

Another thing to consider with the design is whether or not the arrow is stuck or moving: is it waiting to be used, is it flying through the air, or has it already hit its mark? A skillful artist can devise clever ways to indicate movement in ink by drawing sequential shadows, lines of action, motion blur, speed lines, dots, and (of course) arrows!

A good tattoo artist can indicate the arrow's movement with ink. (by tattooist_doy)
A good tattoo artist can indicate the arrow’s movement with ink. (by tattooist_doy)

The Arrow in Lakota Tradition

According to writer and craftsman Joseph Marshall, author of The Lakota Way of Strength and Courage: Lessons in Resilience from the Bow and Arrow, in his family’s tradition, the story went like this:

“The moon gave us the bow and we had to wait until that cycle of the month when that new moon was just a sliver in the sky and then she said, there’s the bow. And, because the moon is a woman, she gave us the bow and, if you do look at that thinnest sliver of a new moon, you’ll see that it’s thinnest on the ends […]. And that is the configuration of the Lakota bow and, interestingly enough, that design, that configuration—that can withstand the drawing of that piece of wood time and time again. It’s a unique engineering marvel if you will. And then it was my grandfather who said that the arrows came from the sun and he pointed out through a grove of trees late in the day and you can see the sun’s rays were very, very straight. And he said, those are the arrows and your arrows have to be as straight as the arrows of the sun. So, the sun being a male, the arrows are male and, of course, the moon being a woman, the bow is female, so in that sense, they fulfill that balance that we see in life.”

Source: Little Tattoos on Pinterest

Symbols and Designs That Go Well With Arrows

Bow or String Blood Snake
Feathers Pen Target
Bullseye Hand Airplane
Sword Birds Heart
Compass Monster or Animal to be Slain Graphical Elements

Even as the archer loves the arrow that flies, so too he loves the bow that remains constant in his hands.

— Nigerian Proverb

Miguel Angel Tattoo, UK
Source: Miguel Angel Tattoo, UK
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