An eagle tattoo can be a great way to expand your body art and produce a meaningful new look for your body. But what, exactly, is behind an eagle tattoo meaning? Understanding this tattoo’s symbolism and its overall message can ensure that you pick a look and style of tattoo that makes sense for you. It also minimizes the risk of frustration that results from picking a tattoo that doesn’t fit your overall look.
If you’re considering an eagle tattoo, keep reading to learn about the symbolism and meaning associated with this image in tattoo art.
Eagle Tattoo Meanings
An eagle tattoo expresses different concepts and ideas depending on the culture the tattoo art represents. The overall cultural context determines the specific eagle tattoo meaning being conveyed.
North American (U.S.) Culture
The eagle typically symbolizes freedom and individuality, particularly in American culture. As the country’s celebrated national bird, eagle tattoos commonly showcase a person’s love of their country and the many benefits of living there.
Patriotism is another eagle tattoo meaning, particularly when paired with other images like the American flag or similar icons that represent U.S culture.
Native American Culture
Eagle imagery is typical throughout the world and often has different meanings. For example, many Native American cultures connect the eagle with life after death and dominance in other worlds. In essence, it is the animal incarnation of The Great Spirit and was commonly used in many ceremonies.
Other cultures use the eagle to symbolize power and even bravery, using the eagle’s sheer size and majesty as powerful totemic images.
Even in Christian culture, there is a powerful eagle tattoo meaning. Often, it signifies personal redemption through submission unto God. As in other cultures, eagles are celebrated in Christianity because of their very strong vision. The idea is that eagles “see all,” meaning they have a higher connection to the spiritual world. Eagles may also be considered messengers for other worlds.
There are few variations on the eagle tattoo meaning beyond the concepts of power, freedom, and spirituality throughout the world. Asian culture often showcases the eagle as a powerful predator capable of great brute strength. It isn’t uncommon to see martial arts warriors and competitors with eagle tattoos designed to symbolize their strength and power.
Eagle Tattoo Variations
In America, the most common eagle tattoo variations invariably include the American flag. The eagle may soar over the flag as if protecting the nation, carry it in its talons as if mothering it, and many other variations. Phrases like “Freedom Never Runs” or “Don’t Tread On Me” may be paired with these images. Biker culture often utilizes these eagle tattoo variations.
Eagle Tattoo Meaning When Used With Other Imagery
However, eagles paired with other animals are also prevalent. These tattoos usually combine one or more animals with the eagle to add symbolism to expand the eagle tattoo meaning. Just a few of the most common combinations include:
- Eagle and Bear – This tattoo symbolizes intense strength and a connection with the wild.
- Eagle and Wolf – People often get these tattoos to symbolize dominance and power.
- Eagle and Lion – Often, these animals fight in a combined tattoo to showcase competitive spirit.
- Eagle and Snake – Eagles defeating snakes in a battle may symbolize the power of good over evil.
Beyond animals, it is also common to see eagles soaring majestically over beautiful landscapes, particularly natural designs. This type of tattoo often symbolizes a person’s love of the wilderness and their connection to the spiritual world. The eagle represents the sky, the landscape indicates the earth, and any water features (such as lakes or waterfalls), the water. Volcanoes or other fire elements may also be present. Other variations include:
- Double-headed bald eagles – a symbol of royalty
- Screaming eagles – indicative of further strength and energy
- Eagle clutching arrows – an icon of peace and brotherhood
- Eagle eye – indicative of spiritual power and unity
These different variations should provide you with many design options. Make sure that you carefully select elements that feel suitable for you and look through the different graphic styles. These may vary based on your tattoo artist and their unique art style.
Eagle Tattoo Styles
Realistic eagle tattoos are prevalent because of the natural beauty of the bird. Therefore, expect a lot of very detailed, intricate, and attractive designs. However, other people may prefer a more traditional style that mimics Native American tribal art more fluently, including Native American spiritual quotes.
However, eagles may also work well in a fun new-school design. These nearly pop-art looks focus on nearly cartoon-style designs and colors. This option is a good choice for those who don’t take their tattoos too seriously and want a fun animal style that isn’t seen on many people.
It’s also not uncommon to see black and white eagle tattoos. These simple colors let the artist focus heavily on details and create a beautiful look. However, you may also find bright colors in the neo-traditional mold that break with old-school trends to produce a variety of new looks.
Eagle Tattoo Considerations
Very few negative connotations exist for the eagle tattoo. It is one of the few tattoo designs that are almost universally acceptable around the world. It is also an eternal tattoo style, meaning that it ages pretty well for most people. However, there are a few things to consider when getting one of these tattoos, particularly when pairing it with various animals.
For example, some cultures (including Egypt and a few others throughout the Asiatic continent) may connect eagles to vultures. This is because the two birds have a similar look and can be similar in size. Unfortunately, vultures (as carrion or dead body eater) are typically viewed very negatively throughout the world, particularly in areas where eating carrion is considered dirty or unclean: hence, evil.
This perception isn’t helped by the fact that eagles will eat carrion if necessary. While they prefer live prey and hunt and catch them when possible, they will eat dead bodies if there are no prey animals to devour. In areas where eagles are more common, this trait may be better known. As a result, you could run into some negative feedback in parts of Asia and India, where eagles are more widespread.
Gang Representation Eagle Tattoos
A special consideration to take into account are specific eagle tattoo variations that identify affiliation with certain gangs. Not all tattoos serve purely artistic purposes, so it’s always a good idea to do research to find out if the tattoo image you’re considering is prominent in gang culture.
An eagle holding a snake in its mouth and perched above the letters “E.M.E” or “M.M.” is associated with the Mexican Mafia (La eMe).
A Mexican eagle holding a snake in its mouth with crossed swords in the background represents the Texas Mexican Mafia (Mexikanemi).
It’s worth noting that these are very specific combinations of eagles and other tattoo symbols — eagle tattoos by themselves don’t signify gang affiliation.
Eagle Tattoo Placement
People with eagle tattoos often utilize complex and large designs that cover much of their bodies. As a result, it’s not uncommon to see a lengthy and detailed eagle tattoo that takes up a person’s whole arm. It may start at the shoulder, where there’s plenty of room for detail, and move down the arm, wrapping around the sides to produce a detailed and attractive design.
However, the sheer size of an eagle may also make back tattoos more common. Here, there’s a lot of room to stretch out the eagle’s wings and focus on detailed imagery. Expect design elements like landscapes, mountains, rivers, and much more.
Smaller eagle tattoos may also appear on ankles or wrists, where they’re easily seen.
Eagle Tattoo Examples
Let’s take a look at a few exciting and beautiful eagle tattoo designs already available to you.
This colorful Neon Eagle tattoo is a good option for someone with a very bright tattoo design across their body and wants something a little different from the standard eagle style.
However, if you’re trying to symbolize your patriotism for America, this Eagle American flag tattoo might be a good choice. It has simple design elements that often go well with this tattoo style, including a few color styles that make it detailed and engaging for multiple people.
This simple red-stylized eagle tattoo uses bright colors, essential lines, and a somewhat abstract feel to create a beautiful style. This option probably works best for someone who already has similar tattoo designs and wants to enhance their unique, almost pop-art style.
Here’s a variation on the eagle and snake tattoo that also uses a skull as imagery of battle and death. Like other eagle and snake tattoos, this eagle tattoo meaning typically indicates the triumph of good over evil, the inner conflict in everyone, and other similar deep and complex ideas.
If you like more cartoonish tattoo styles, this eagle tattoo may be a good choice for you. While it has colorful design elements and a stark black background for contrast, the eagle still looks powerful. While a bit lighter in tone, it still retains the general dominance standard with eagle tattoos.
Lastly, if you’re a rock music fan or love riding your bike, this rock and roll eagle may appeal to you. It uses the color schemes typical in the rock world (black and red) and features a relatively simple but attractive design that may work well for many different people.
Understanding the Eagle Tattoo Meaning
If you want a tattoo that symbolizes power, strength, freedom, and patriotism, an eagle tattoo is an appropriate choice. First, make sure that you look through the different variations and art styles before picking one of these body art designs. If you’re still uncertain, look at examples and work with a tattoo artist to create a variation on one of these looks that feels right for you.
Interested in what other tattoo images mean? Click this link for other blog articles in our series about tattoo meanings.