What Does A Dragon Tattoo Mean

what does a dragon tattoo mean featured image
Published on April 19, 2024

If you’re captivated by Dragons such as myself and are looking to get a Tattoo of these mythical beasts, you’ve probably asked yourself, "What does a Dragon Tattoo Mean?

I’ve always loved Dragons for their aesthetic, so when I wanted to get a Dragon Tattoo of my own, I never really considered the deep meaning of the design as I was solely focused on just what I thought ‘looked cool’.

It was only when my friend asked me what my potential future Dragon Tattoo would mean I felt a little embarrassed.

Of course, there is nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to getting inked in a style that you just think looks cool, but it made me think about what exactly do Dragons and Dragon Tattoos specifically mean beyond their imposing and powerful imagery. 

So, after doing some research on the long and storied history of Dragons and Dragon Tattoos, I think I’m ready to answer the burning (pun intended) question: What does a Dragon Tattoo mean? 

The History Of Dragons

Dragons have come in many shapes and sizes throughout history. In fact, apart from Antarctica (unless they pull one out of the ice), there isn’t a continent on the planet that doesn’t have a Dragon or a dragon-like creature referenced in their myths and legends.

Africa, The Americas, Asia, Europe, Australia, and Polynesian islands all have tales of Dragons or Dragon-like beings associated with them. 

african dragon

Photo credit: Pinterest

While Dragon-like creatures are cited as far back as in the mythos of the Ancient Near East and appear in Mesopotamian art, the first known depiction of the modern Eastern-style Dragons were depicted in jade carvings found in eastern Inner Mongolia.

Chinese Dragon

chinese what does a dragon tattoo mean

Photo credit: Tatt Mag

The Chinese Dragon, or 龍 (loong), has many animal forms, from Turtles to Fish, but it is most commonly depicted as a snake with limbs.

The Chinese Dragon was associated with the Emporer of China to represent imperial power, but in Daoist belief, the color of the Dragon can change its meaning significantly, ranging from the seasons to abstract concepts like good fortune.

Japanese Dragon

Japanese Dragon Tattoo with three claws

Photo credit: thehangouttattoo.com

Japan's belief in Dragons was mainly brought in by Chinese traditions, with most Japanese Dragons being water deities associated with rainfall.

The Japanese Dragon is similar in most ways with its Chinese brethren, but the Japanese Dragon is distinctive from a Chinese Dragon with the number of claws it has, three for the Japanese and four to five for a Chinese Dragon.

European Dragon

European Dragon what does a dragon tattoo mean

Photo credit: @tatucreature

European Dragons originally got their start as more snake-like creatures who needed to be vanquished by a mighty hero in order to save or protect something, with the beast being muti-headed or having some kind of multiple features associated with it.

Over time, the image of the Dragon began to change with a hand-painted image within a medieval manuscript depicting the more modern interpretation of what we now know as a Dragon with its wings and fire-breathing capabilities.

The European Dragon was almost always depicted as a malevolent type creature who was greedy, aggressive, and gluttonous with the brave hero eventually slaying the foul beast, cementing his name in folklore forever.

However, while most European Dragons were chaotic malevolent creatures, the Celtic Dragon was a benevolent beings who lived in a parallel realm and blessed the lands wherever they went.

Dragons in Modern Times

Dragons in Modern Times

Photo credit: Film Companion

Thanks to modern media, Dragons have been given a new lease on life with special powers and abilities that they never had in their mythological stories.

Dragons are mostly associated in fantasy but appear in plenty of genres ranging from Sci-Fi, Horror, Action-Adventure, Childrens Animation, and many more. 

Modern interpretations can often pay tribute to the tales of old but also adapt the lore to suit the themes of the stories the authors want to tell.

For example, the Dragons in the ‘How To Train Your Dragon’ series start off as seemingly malevolent creatures but actually become the loving companions of the series protagonist and his family and friends.

What Does A Dragon Tattoo Mean and Dragon Tattoo Designs

Now that we’ve explored the history of Dragons, now it’s time to finally answer the question of what a Dragon Tattoo means. 

When it comes to Dragon Tattoos and their meaning, positioning, color, and type of Dragon all play crucial roles in determining what the symbolism is supposed to represent.

Sometimes your tattoo doesn’t just have to be a Dragon by itself and can include other things or animals like a Dragon Phoenix Tattoo or a Dragon Cherry Blossom Tattoo to add more depth and meaning to your ink. 

Eastern Dragon Tattoo Meaning

Eastern Dragon Tattoo Meaning

Photo credit: Temu

In Chinese and Japanese cultures, the Dragon is a benevolent and wise creature associated with many things, including strength, power, and protection, as well as water and the weather.

An Eastern Dragon Tattoo can symbolize such things as wisdom, longevity, and prosperity.

Beyond that, the color of an Eastern Dragon also plays a crucial role in an Eastern Dragon Tattoo's meaning. 

  • A Black Dragon Tattoo represents wisdom, experience, and solemnity.
  • Red Dragon Tattoos represent good fortune, joy, and prosperity, hence why it is the most commonly used Dragon for weddings and special occasions.
  • Green Dragon Tattoos, with its link to nature, symbolizes growth, harmony, and fertility.
  • A Blue Dragon Tattoo represents gentleness and forgiveness and can symbolize calmness, coolness, and compassion.
  • Yellow Dragon tattoos symbolize wealth, wisdom, and kindness. In Chinese culture, yellow or gold dragons are considered the most noble and are often associated with the emperor, but in Japanese culture, yellow Dragons aren’t very common. 
  • Lastly a White Dragon Tattoo represents purity and truth, but can also be representations of death and the journey to the afterlife. 

Eastern Dragon Tattoo Placement

The position of the Eastern Dragon on the body can add more layers of significance to your ink. Let’s check out what certain positions on the body mean:

1. Eastern Dragon Tattoo On The Back

Eastern Dragon Tattoo On The Back

Photo credit: @e.nal.tattoo

A dragon tattoo on the back is very powerful in Chinese culture. It's considered protective and oversees the person’s life. Placing a Chinese Dragon on the back might represent control over one’s destiny and the strength in facing the challenges in life.

Adding Flowers to your Dragon Tattoo can increase its symbolic meaning. The type of flower will determine the symbolism, so it is best to pair your Dragon with a flower that has synergetic symbolism.

Because cherry blossoms are synonymous with Japan, this Floral Dragon Tattoo combines the Dragons symbolism of luck and protection with the cherry blossoms symbolism of life’s fleeting beauty. So together, they symbolize how the Dragon protects everything in life no matter how long or short they live. 

2. Eastern Dragon Tattoo On Chest

Eastern Dragon Tattoo On Chest

Photo credit: Next Luxury

Placing a dragon atop the chest can signify courage and bravery. Because it is close to the heart, it may symbolize passion and energy.

Nobody said you had to settle for just a Dragon, two Guardian spirits are better than one, after all. This Dragon Tiger Tattoo is stunning. On one side, you have a Mytical Dragon Tattoo, and on the other, you have a Fierce Tiger Tattoo.

In Chinese culture, the dragon reigned over the heavens and stood for yang, while the tiger, respected as the mightiest and most courageous of the wild beasts, stands for yin, so having both the Tiger and Dragon close to your heart represents your bravery and fearlessness. 

3. Arm With Eastern Dragon Tattoo

Arm With Eastern Dragon Tattoo

Photo credit: @tadashitattoovn

A Dragon tattoo on the arm can represent wielding the Strength of the Dragon. Placing it on the arm can be a statement of empowerment and vigor also.

There is an ancient tale in China of a Koi fish that battled against the raging currents and seemingly insurmountable obstacles only to reach the top of the mountain and be rewarded by the Gods by being transformed into a mighty Dragon.

This Koi Dragon Tattoo shows both the Koi Fish and Dragon separately to symbolize the two sides of the journey, whereas you can opt for a Dragonfish Tattoo which is a combination of the halfway point between the transformation to symbolize the wearer’s transformation during their journey. 

4. Eastern Dragon Tattoo On Leg

Eastern Dragon Tattoo On Leg

Photo credit: Pinterest

A dragon tattoo on the leg can symbolize foundation and stability, as well as the journey through life. It can represent a person’s will to go on, showing progress and strength in overcoming obstacles.

A Rose is the symbol of love and romance, so a Dragon Rose Tattoo can symbolize your love of someone or something being protected by your guardian spirit.

European Dragon Tattoo Meaning 

Unlike their Eastern counterparts, European Dragon Tattoos carry different symbolism when Tattooed on the body.

Europen Dragons are often associated with being benevolent, but modern interpretations have given the Dragon and Dragon Tattoos new meaning.

Power, strength, protection, and dominance are associated with the Dragon itself, While courage, bravery, and willpower can be associated with the themes of battling against a fearsome foe—in this case, the dragon—as they reflect the qualities required to face and overcome such a powerful adversary.

European Dragon Tattoo Meaning

Photo credit: SVET

The colors associated with European Dragons aren’t as easily defined as with their Eastern counterparts.

However, modern interpretations often tend to associate specific colors with specific symbolism.

While not always mutually exclusive, let’s take a look at what the colors of the more modern interpretations of Dragons are associated with. 

  • A Black European Dragon Tattoo can represent power, fear, and the unknown and is often associated with mysterious or fictional forces like void powers. 
  • Red symbolizes passion, rage, and warfare. With its intense color, it is often used in Dragon Tattoos to convey ferocity and a warrior spirit. It can also signify protection from harm and fire. 
  • Green dragons can symbolize the Earth and Nature itself, but they are also often tied to ambition and the guarding of treasures.
  • Blue Dragons Tattoos might not be as common in European lore, but as a tattoo, a blue dragon could symbolize the depth of character and calm authority and also embody tranquility, the sky, or ice powers. 
  • Gold/Yellow Dragon Tattoos can associate the Dragon with wealth, wisdom, and the pursuit of knowledge or alternatively, it can be associated with a greedy Dragon who hoards treasure and has breath the turns anything it touches to gold.
  • White Dragon Tattoos are rare and are usually connected to purity, spirituality, and the supernatural. In tattoos, they might represent a connection to the divine or the ethereal aspects of life.
  • Silver Dragon Tattoos, similar to White Dragon Tattoos, Silver Dragons can symbolize nobility, clarity, and focus. Silver can also be associated with the moon and the mystical properties of lunar energy.

European Dragon Tattoo Placement

Just like the Eastern Dragon’s position adds more symbolism to your ink, likewise, it does with the European Dragon, but what are the meanings of the positions? Let’s find out:

Given the European dragon’s association with power, strength, and battle, where the tattoo is placed can emphasize different aspects of its meaning.

1. European Dragon Tattoo on Back

European Dragon Tattoo on Back

Photo credit: Next Luxury

A Dragon Tattoo on the back, especially a full-back piece, is a powerful statement in European tradition. It can symbolize protection and strength, acting as a metaphorical shield against harm.

This European Tribal Dragon Tattoo doubles as a Yin-Yang Dragon Tattoo. Tribal Tattoos are associated with tribal customs, symbolizing which family the wearer belonged to acting like a sigil of sorts. So your Back Tribal Dragon tattoo can carry the symbolism of your Dragon family protecting you and giving you strength.

2. Chest With European Dragon Tattoo

Chest With European Dragon Tattoo

Photo credit: Pinterest

Placing a dragon on the chest symbolizes courage and bravery. Being close to the heart may signify the wearer’s fiery passion. It’s also a declaration of strength and fearlessness.

You don't always have to get a full-body Dragon Tattoo. A Dragon Head Tattoo is great if you want to show more of the ferocious and threatening features of the European Dragon.

3. Arm With European Dragon Tattoo

Arm With European Dragon Tattoo

Photo credit: stylendesigns.com

A Dragon tattoo on the arm can represent strength and power. Sleeve tattoos, in particular, can depict the stories of old folklore or tales from media that embody the meaning behind those tales. 

A Minimalist Dragon Tattoo is great for those not wanting to go all but still embody all the symbolism that is associated with the Dragon. This design is both subtle yet elegant, with three Dragon kin in flight together. 

4. European Dragon Tattoo On Leg

European Dragon Tattoo On Leg

Photo credit: BlendUp

A Dragon tattoo on the leg can symbolize stability, support, and strength. It may also symbolize the Dragon carrying you through life as you take each step.

A Dragon Sword Tattoo symbolizes that the sword or the warrior spirit is imbued with the strength of the Dragon. Having a Dragon Sword Tattoo on your leg can symbolize how you walk into each new battle with the strength and resolve of a Dragon. 

5. Shoulder With European Dragon Tattoo

Shoulder With European Dragon Tattoo

Photo credit: Next Luxury

Tattoos on the shoulder often symbolize bearing responsibilities. A Dragon tattoo on the shoulder can signify carrying a heavy load or the power to shoulder any challenge.

A Celtic Dragon Tattoo on the shoulder is great for those who have Celtic heritage and carry on their ancestor's legacy. 


So ends our journey through the mythical world of Dragon Tattoos and What Does A Dragon Tattoo Mean. We’ve soared through the skies of Chinese and Japanese ancient tales and breathed fire into the folklore of European Dragon Tattoos.

With our adventure at an end, I hope you’ve found the knowledge you sought out and finally have the answer to the question you desired of ‘What does a dragon tattoo mean’ 

If you’re someone who’s thinking about getting a Dragon Tattoo, then there is no magic spell that will make your after-ink soreness disappear.

Just like a burn from a Dragon’s breath you will need to take the appropriate care to get you back on your feet as soon as possible.

So check out these great tattoo aftercare products to reduce pain and discomfort and keep the fire alive and your Dragon ink looking as fresh and alive for as long as possible.

Paul Mulligan
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