Crane Tattoo Meaning

If you’re thinking about getting a crane tattoo, you may ask yourself, “What do crane tattoos mean?”

Cranes have been a popular symbol for hundreds of years, especially in Asian cultures. Because it’s such an ancient symbol, many crane tattoo meanings exist.

Keep reading to discover some popular crane tattoo meanings and get some design ideas for crane tattoos to help inspire your next tattoo.

An paper crane tattoo done in an origami art style.
An origami-style paper crane tattoo.

All About Cranes

Before we get into the meaning of crane tattoos, you might like to know a little more about cranes.

Cranes are stork-like birds with long legs and oval-shaped bodies. They come in different colors and are beautiful birds with an elegant appearance.

There are about fifteen different species of cranes that range in size from about thirty-five to seventy inches tall. They’re iconic symbols in Asian cultures, especially Japanese and Chinese.

Cranes live all over the world. You can find cranes on every continent except South America and Antarctica. Because they’re found in so many places, many cultures have created different meanings for Cranes over time.

Most of them are positive, but you may be surprised to learn that there are some negative Crane tattoo meanings as well.

Common Crane Tattoo Meanings

A Whooping Crane standing on one leg in water.


Cranes are often portrayed as graceful birds, and it’s not hard to see why. Cranes move smoothly through the water and sky with calm, fluid movements. They’re a perfect representation of elegance and beauty.

Cranes have been used in art in different cultures for centuries. The Crane is one of the Chinese culture’s most popular bird symbols, second only to the Phoenix.


It’s undeniable that cranes are some of the prettiest birds out there. They have long legs and necks with lovely feathers — you might describe them as “exquisite.”

They also have an elegant, poised, and graceful appearance. They stand on one leg, like flamingos, showing effortless balance.


White has long been associated with purity in many cultures throughout the world. Whooping Cranes are a beautiful pure white color which is why they’ve been associated with purity in Chinese culture.

Cranes also have feathers in other colors including gray, brown, and white.

Devotion and Faithfulness

Some species of Cranes, like the Sandhill Crane, mate for life. This is why cranes are a symbol of devotion, faithfulness, and fidelity. They’re often used to represent a long and happy marriage, especially in Asian cultures.

If you want to show your love and commitment to your partner, a crane tattoo could be the perfect symbol to represent your special bond.


In many cultures, Cranes represent peace, calm, and tranquility. Their calm, fluid movements and lovely appearance make them a symbol of peace and serenity.

If you live a lifestyle of peace or have an especially calm personality, then a crane tattoo might be a way to express it.


In Chine culture, Cranes have been a symbol of longevity for hundreds of years.

Cranes have a long lifespan compared to many other birds. In the wild, cranes usually live between twenty and thirty years. They can live as long as eighty years in captivity and sometimes even longer.

Because of their long lifespan, they often represent longevity or eternal youth.

Happiness and Good Fortune

In many cultures, Cranes stand for happiness and good fortune. If you want to celebrate a happy time or season of good fortune, a crane tattoo may be the perfect tattoo image to represent an important moment in your life.

Other Crane Tattoo Meanings

A minimalist black and white image of a crane with spread wings and standing on one leg.

Open Mindedness

Cranes are willing to eat all kinds of food. Their diets may include things like insects, berries, fish, eggs from other birds, frogs, grains, and more. They also experience a lot of different things during migration, making long journeys and seeing many different places along the way.

For these reasons, Cranes can be an expression of open-mindedness and a willingness to try new things and have new experiences.

Strength and Endurance

Cranes have one of the longest migrations of any bird. The Sandhill Crane and the Siberian Crane, in particular, travel incredible distances every year. Some species cross mountains and oceans and can cover as many as 500 miles in a single day.

It takes a lot of strength to travel so far, so Cranes are an ideal symbol of strength and endurance during hardship.


Cranes may represent patience for a couple of reasons.

When they stand on one leg, it gives them a calm, steady, and patient appearance. While standing in the water, they appear unhurried, as if they could easily be there all day.

Cranes are also very diligent parents when it comes to taking care of their young. Both male and female birds spend time caring for young birds. As many parents know all too well, caring for children takes incredible patience!


Cranes have spiritual significance in many cultures.

Some Native American cultures worshipped cranes and prayed to them for wisdom and long life.

In Buddhism, cranes are a sign of reincarnation and bodhisattvas (a bodhisattva is someone who is able to reach Nirvana but decides to stay on earth and help others reach enlightenment).

In Chinese mythology, they were considered messengers from the Gods.

In Hinduism, cranes are considered sacred.

Negative Crane Tattoo Symbolism

Not all crane tattoo meanings are positive. There are some dark themes in crane symbolism, especially in mythology and folklore.

In ancient Chinese folklore, the crane was said to carry the dead from earth to heaven. While some see this as a good thing, others see it as a sign of death rather than life and see cranes as the harbinger of death.

In Hindu mythology, cranes represent the Goddess of deceit, bad timing, and bad omens. In some myths, seeing a crane is a bad omen and a sure sign that something terrible is about to happen.

Crane Tattoo Styles

If you’re thinking about getting a crane tattoo, the meaning behind it is just one of the things you’ll want to consider.

Once you decide on what a crane tattoo means to you, choosing a style is another important step in the tattoo design process. The right design style can help convey the meaning (or meanings) you want your tattoo to represent.

Crane tattoo styles are as varied as crane tattoo meanings. The options can seem almost endless. Here are some crane tattoo symbolic style ideas to help you get started.

Watercolor Crane Tattoo

Watercolor is a beautiful, often very artistic tattoo style. Because cranes naturally spend a lot of time in and around water, the watercolor style works well for crane tattoos.

In watercolor tattoos, colors can be soft and muted or bold and striking. They can be simple or incredibly detailed, depending on what kind of look you’re going for.

Paper Crane Tattoo

Paper cranes have a lot of symbolic meaning, especially in Japan. They are often seen as a symbol of good fortune, long life, and happiness.

One of the first origami shapes Japanese children learn is the Crane. A paper crane tattoo could represent youth, innocence, and playfulness in addition to other symbolic crane tattoo meanings you want to portray.

Flying Crane Tattoo

Flying cranes can represent strength, grace, elegance, longevity, or other meanings.

Flying itself often represents movement, progress, change, or freedom.

A flying crane may symbolize fidelity and devotion, especially when two cranes are used in the design. Two cranes flying together make a beautiful picture of devotion and commitment to journeying through life together.

Japanese Crane Tattoo

A Japanese artistic style can represent history and culture, along with the crane tattoo meaning you choose to represent with your tattoo.

Geometric Crane Tattoo

Geometric tattoos often symbolize balance, symmetry, intelligence, mystery, or stability. A crane tattoo with a geometric design could represent longevity, devotion, peace, or another meaning in a unique and interesting way.

Minimalistic Crane Tattoo

Simple tattoos can still have really powerful meanings. Without a lot of distracting elements, a minimalistic tattoo can sometimes stand out even more.

If you’re using a crane tattoo to represent a negative meaning or unhappy event in your life, a simple crane skeleton may work well as a representation of the crane tattoo meaning you’re going for.

Crane Tattoo Placement

Where you place a tattoo on your body also has symbolic meaning. For example, a tattoo on the foot or ankle can represent progress, walking, or moving forward. Tattoos on the upper arm represent strength. Back tattoos are often said to symbolize remembrance or burdens.

Consider some of these implications when deciding where you want to place your crane tattoo.

Where you place your tattoo also impacts the size of the tattoo. For example, you can get a much larger tattoo on your back than on your ankle.

Know how big you want the tattoo to be and what you want it to represent when selecting where to place a crane tattoo.

Is a Crane Tattoo Right for You?

If you want to get a crane tattoo, there’s a lot to think about. What the tattoo represents and how it looks are important things to consider.

You’ll also want to choose a tattoo artist who has experience working in the style you’ve chosen. If you’re not sure what style you want, talking to a tattoo artist is a good way to get ideas and find out what options you have.

Wrapping Up Crane Tattoo Meanings

A crane in flight.

If you’re considering getting a crane tattoo, hopefully these ideas were helpful! Which crane tattoo meaning stood out to you? Did any surprise you?

To learn more about different tattoos and what they mean, check out our other Tattoo Meanings blog posts.

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