Somewhere, dragons are the signs of terror, chaos, fear, and death, but not in all cultures. In other places, dragon tattoos can manifest power, courage, and confidence, and a lot of people want them as their tattoo, sometimes even when they’re getting a tattoo for the first time. That’s why dragon tattoo is quite popular and a great choice regardless of the tattoo studio you pick in.
However, not everyone knows everything about dragon tattoos before they get them, like how difficult it is to make, what designs are out there, and does tattooing a dragon represents something in terms of its meaning.
A lot of people make tattoos because they reflect on an event from life or want to highlight their personality traits.
That’s why a lot of people tattoo special dates, for example. The same goes with dragon tattoos, but if you want them to represent an event or something else from your life it’s important to know what is the true meaning of a dragon tattoo.
Where Does The Dragon Origin From?
Not surprisingly, dragons have a rich history and origin, mainly because the tales of dragons appear for thousands of years. However, depending on the culture that they root in, dragons have either been a symbol of admiration or awe, terror and fear.
The word “dragon” can be derived from both Latin and ancient Greek language. In Latin, the dragon was marked with the word “dracones” while the Greek counterpart was spelled as “derekein.” Both words, however, have different meanings. In Latin, dracone meant someone who is sharp-sighted and can see sharply. On the other hand, “derekein” was used in Greek languages to mark snakes and other reptiles.
Another word used to define dragons in ancient times was “Draco” which is defined as a “giant serpent.”
Dragons are popular in both Eastern and Western cultures. However, while the Eastern culture worships dragons as benevolent and creatures of good fortune, the Western culture and history sees dragon as the source of all terror and chaos.
It’s important to note that the appearance of a dragon in Western culture is significantly different than the perception of the East Asian civilizations.
Regardless of civilization or origin, dragons were mythical and legendary creatures, which many used to define certain characteristics and included them in the tales throughout history. However, it’s clear where was the term dragon first used in history.
Some stories from Mesopotamia give a hint that dragons were first mentioned there. Mesopotamia was the home of the Sumerian people who built both Mesopotamia and Babylon. Today, Mesopotamian territory spans to Iran and Iraq. A lot of other civilizations mention dragons early in history, such as Babylonians who dared to compare their might and power to that of the Gods.
They used dragons in tales to mark guardians of important historical treasures. However, most of the historical tales displayed dragons as evil and vicious, rather than wise and intelligent.
If you’ve ever read the Epic of Gilgamesh then you may also know that one of his quests included slaying a dragon called Humbab, which protected the city of Uruk from intruders. The Sumerian culture also mentions the dragon named Zu who captured law tablets that belonged to the God Enil. Lastly, another dragon from the Sumerian culture also includes Gandareva who protected other dragons.
Dragons In East Asia
Dragons were celebrated in China, Vietnam, and Japanese cultures. However, the dragons they celebrated weren’t the same. The determining number included the number of claws on each foot depending on the folklore from which the dragon originated from.
The dragons from China had five claws, while Japanese and Vietnamese dragons had four and three claws respectively. In Ancient China, the dragon was one of the most worshipped mythical beasts, often believed to be real and one of the highlight symbols of the civilizations.
There are even holidays dedicated to the dragons marked with glorious celebrations for centuries, which originally came from the Song Dynasty that ruled from 960 to 1279 AD. The Azure Dragon of The East is one of the most popular from ancient China, and the belief in him descended into other cultures too.
In Japan, ancient civilizations and many generations afterward also worshipped dragons, with one of the most popular dragons being Ryujin, also known as the Dragon King. The Dragon King habituated a palace located under the ocean, together with his wife and daughter.
Dragons also appear in the Korean culture, where they symbolize benevolence. They are the epitome of harmony, balance, water, and agriculture.
Finally, The Vietnamese also believed in dragons and wrote plentiful tales that worship them. Interestingly, the Dragon King appears in the Vietnamese culture and is documented in the tale of a fisherman Slowcoach who used a magic fishhook.
After using it for fishing, the daughter of the Dragon King showed up to him and told him he used the fishhook and captured her father’s mouth. After visiting the underwater palace and removing the fishhook from the Dragon King’s mouth, he was rewarded with the hand of the Dragon King’s daughter.
Dragons In India
In India, dragons were also considering Gods, one of them being called Vitra who was the guardian of the winter. Another Hindu story describes a dragon named Apalala who became Buddhist thanks to Buddha. That ultimately resulted in him being rejected by other dragons in the Hindu culture.
Dragons In Europe
Unlike the Asian civilizations that worshipped dragons as the Gods, Europe had a much darker history with dragons. They are depicted as vicious, evil, and cruel, and when it comes to the fairytales, they were often considered the main villains and antagonists.
In many stories, a prince has to save a princess from a dragon that captured her and kept her captive in a cave or a castle of his own. Many fantasy stories descended this belief in dragons, which is the opposite of what Asian dragons were considered.
One of the most important dragon-involving tales in the history of Europe is the legend of Saint George and The Dragon. The story revolves around a village Cappadocia that was attacked and terrorized by a dragon that captured a princess maiden. Saint George decided to go on a journey to tame and slay the dragon and save the princess.
This story is one of the most popular stories about European dragons, other than the fairytales that came much later. It’s often depicted through art in the Orthodox culture. Interestingly, even the Beowulf poem has an alternative ending where the hero kills three dragons.
A Celtic culture that was also prominent in Europe regarded dragons with respect and compared them to Gods. In Celtic paintings and other artwork, dragons are often crowned and decorated with tribal and forest symbols, to mark their power. The dragons also existed in the Fae culture.
What Is The Meaning Of Dragon Tattoo?
Tattoos have been popular among human civilizations for as long as 10,000 years. So, it definitely wouldn’t surprise us if someone has tattooed a dragon throughout that time. After all, given the rich history and origin of dragons and the culture, many people had a reason to tattoo a certain mythical dragon or an event that depicts a dragon.
But, before you make a tattoo of a magnificent and majestic dragon, you should first know the meaning that the dragon tattoos can entail. You probably don’t, but to avoid embarrassment when someone asks you about the meaning of your tattoo, you should probably know what it means.
So, as mentioned earlier, dragons had a different set of meanings depending on the culture they come from. If they originate from the western culture they were usually marked as vicious, dangerous, threatening, and evil. We doubt that you want to be seen that way just because of the tattoo, so we’ll detail other meanings of the dragons.
Power: If you’re tattooing a dragon on any part of the body, you want to highlight that you used your experience and caution to get through challenging situations in life. They can be a sign of power. If you make a detailed dragon tattoo, with stripes, claws, fangs, or even fire, you want to showcase your success and the hardworking steps you take to be where you’re today.
Wisdom: Wisdom marks that you’ve come to the age where you can be straightforward and make decisions driven by your experience that will make you even wiser in the process.
Courage: The courage seen in dragons can reflect on how you face certain situations and hardships in life. Many people choose to make a tattoo of a dragon on a prominent part of their body to highlight that they came out stronger from their difficulties. Additionally, it can highlight that you weren’t afraid of taking risks in certain stressful and risky situations.
Self-assurance: That said, the meaning of the dragon tattoo doesn’t always have to be connected to chaos, and threatening symbolism. It can showcase their mythical and legendary existence throughout various cultures and combined with other symbols to make the tattoo more creative and authentic.
Healing: Finally, a lot of people may tattoo a dragon to mark that they came out stronger from an illness or an injury and that they are stronger and braver than ever before.
In addition to the cultural meanings of the dragons, you should also look into the colors of dragons and see whether that can be useful for your tattoo idea.
- Green – is associated with nature, forests, Earth element. They are also good for smaller parts of the body.
- Yellow – is associated with being confident, self-centered, self-assured, and practical. It’s often an association to the Eastern dragons.
- Black – Usually the color that is used on larger dragons to highlight power, wisdom, and intelligence.
- Blue – Blue dragons are usually present in the West and Celtic culture. They mark compassion.
- Gold – is wise, kind, helpful, intelligent, and self-assured. They are a great tattoo idea.
- Red – is wise, brave, intelligent, and fierce, not scared of getting into any situation.
Where Should I Make A Tattoo Of A Dragon?
There’s no ideal part of the body for a dragon tattoo. However, a lot of factors can play an important factor.
Perhaps, you want to highlight just a part of the body with a dragon tattoo, which is why smaller dragon tattoos may be ideal. On the other hand, maybe you want to make a large dragon tattoo that will be prominent and visible on your body depending on the position. Here are a few great ideas for tattooing part of the body with a dragon.
Arms are an ideal part of dragon tattoos. You can use arms for both smaller dragon tattoos or large dragon tattoos. There are a lot of great smaller and larger designs which you can combine with more elements in the tattoo or combine with other tattoos to make a sleeve tattoo.
With that in mind, arms are great for dragon tattoos, both smaller and larger ones.
Are you up for a challenge? Your side tattoo can reach as far from under your shoulder to your hips and thighs. It’s just the question of how brave you are and which design you’ll pick. A lot of people pick sides for a dragon tattoo, mainly when they plan on tattooing a large dragon and add up some elements like clouds, wings, fire, or water in the process.
If you’re springing for a dragon tattoo that you want to sit on the side, then it’d be best to pick a large tattoo of an Eastern snake-like dragon. We’ll show examples in the pictures below.
Not surprisingly, the back is the most popular area for a dragon tattoo. It’s an ideal position for people who want to make large dragon tattoos. Additionally, it’s a great option for people who want to put smaller tattoos that they can later combine with other symbols and tattoos while designing their unique and authentic patterns. We’ve seen a lot of dragon tattoo designs on the back, starting from simple Eastern dragon designs to vicious winged and fanged dragons.
Of course, you can place your dragon tattoo wherever you want. We’ve seen a lot of shoulder dragon tattoos, chest dragon tattoos, and even hip and leg tattoos. It’s just up to your creativity.
14 Best Dragon Tattoo Designs
If our historical representation of the dragon tattoo meanings didn’t help you choose your dragon tattoo design, make sure to check our list of the best dragon tattoos for some inspiration.
1. The Floral Dragon Tattoo
Regardless of whether you’re a girl or a guy, floral tattoos look great. In most cases, it’s not enough to make a dragon tattoo to make a well-decorated tattoo, usually, some decorations and effects are necessary. This tattoo of a winged dragon surrounded by flowers, roses to be precise looks detailed, crisp, and quite inspirational.
2. Eastern Dragon Tattoo
If you’re looking for a tough Eastern-alike dragon with a slim, snake-like silhouette, this tattoo design is ideal for you. There are other elements to this tattoo, such as lighting bolts that are supposed to emphasize that the dragon is in the sky. The tattoo prominently combines red and black color to highlight a fierce dragon, as well as wise, brave, and tough.
This great design looks great on both legs or arms, and it can even be used to make a sleeve-like tattoo.
3. Dragon Hybrid Tattoo
Tattoo artists generally expect some kind of reference when they are working on your tattoo. However, the reference comes down to your creativity. In combination with a beautiful floral pattern, this tattoo artist illustrated a hybrid dragon, a long-tailed beast with prominent scales and a slim body. You can always combine different elements and designs to make a more authentic design for your tattoo.
4. Dragon Leg Sleeve Tattoo
If you grew up watching anime, Dragon Ball Z to be precise, this tattoo may look incredibly familiar. It’s a jaw-dropping Eastern dragon design packaged into a lovely, yet, confident-looking leg-sleeve bundle. We’re sure it’s going to look great when it heals, and with some additional elements, it’s going to look dashing. What do you think?
5. Dragon Arm Sleeve Tattoo
For the total tattoo enthusiasts looking to paint their arms into dazzling arm sleeves, here’s your inspiration. Although the design is not complete, it features a twirled Eastern-style dragon that surrounds the arm. It also looks surprisingly similar to the dragon from Dragon Ball Z. If you’re springing for a design like this, keeps in mind it could require a couple of sessions until complete.
6. Baby Dragon Tattoo
This baby dragon sparks innocence, especially thanks to the beautiful floral design that accompanies it. What also makes it quite attractive is that it’s made to be black and white, meaning it’s great to combine with other tattoo designs. If you’re looking for a cuter and more innocent approach to make a dragon tattoo, here is our favorite inspiration.
7. Haku Dragon Tattoo
Who said that dragons can only be inspired by the mythical folklore? Spirited Away is one of the most popular Studio Ghibli films, and Haku, one of the most popular characters, who can also turn into a dragon. This tattoo is designed to be black and white, but Haku’s true colors are green and white. If you’re inspired by a Studio Ghibli tattoo design, Haku can be a great addition to your combination.
8. Japanese Dragon Tattoo Design
Read More: Japanese Tattoos: History, Meanings, Symbolism And Designs
Another sleeve combines various mythical creatures from Japan, including a large and vicious-looking dragon spirit, a demon, and a tiger. This is a great inspiration for those who want to combine different designs and enhance them according to their style.
9. Elegant Dragon Tattoo
If you’re a girl who wants to make an elegant-looking dragon tattoo with a lot of graceful accents and a bit of floral design, this elegant dragon tattoo that sits perfectly on your arms will work wonders. Instead of scales, this dragon has a black surface, covered in flowers, and a very vivid mane on the top. On its other side, there are carefully-crafted scales that make it look detailed, crisp, and simply wonderfully-done.
10. Violet Blue Dragon Tattoo
More floral designs mean more inspiration for flowery dragon tattoos. This design can work great on any part of the body you want, and is a great inspiration for those who want to show that they are delicate like a flower, yet fierce like a dragon.
11. Dragon & Tiger Tattoo
It’s no secret that a lot of people combine dragons with other animals. We believe that a tiger is a great choice because both dragon and tiger are fierce and the symbol of strength and courage.
12. Twin Dragons Tattoo
Twin dragons are all about overcoming struggles and tough decisions, since both should be represented to be prominent and large, backs is the best option for hosting such detailed tattoo. If you opt for some variant of twin dragons, make sure to highlight them in a different color to add more depth to the design.
13. Battle Dragon Tattoo
The dragon can also be seen as the sign of battle inside of you. The samurai in the tattoo can represent you fighting against your fears, challenges, and struggles, packaged in the shape of a dragon. You can experiment with other prints, but this should give you a general idea for a tattoo design that will cover your back in its entirety.
14. Dragon Castle Tattoo
Many dragons in the tales are a guardian of some castle, or treasure hidden in the castle. In European folklore, dragons often keep the princesses they kidnap inside their dark castle. This tattoo is the perfect visual representation of one of the popular European tales.
Dragon Tattoo: More Things to Know
If there were some questions about dragon tattoos that were bothering you, here you may find your answer.
Does Gender Matter When Making A Dragon Tattoo?
If you were told that dragons are for boys, those who told you that is wrong. Dragons are for everyone because courage, wisdom, strength, and self-assurance are for everyone. There are a lot of ways to make your dragon tattoo look more feminine if you’re concerned about it looking too manly.
Are Dragon Tattoos Hard To Draw?
Depending on the design you want to imprint on yourself, they can be quite difficult and the process can last long especially if you’re looking to make a dragon sleeve. You may probably require a couple of sessions to get your dragon tattoo done.
Does Dragon Tattoo Hurt To Make?
Depending on your pain tolerance, any tattoo can cause you to pain in the making. If the dragon tattoo you want to make on your body is time-consuming and complex to draw, you may experience some pain.
Does Dragon Tattoo Take Long To Remove?
It can if you made a large design, like across your back, arm, or leg. It’s also important to consider which colors you used. For example, black and green tattoos are easy to remove using a laser technique, while yellow, purple, and blue could be harder to remove.
Still Have Questions? Check out: The Ultimate Tattoo Guide & Resources (2021 Update)