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The Multifaceted Meanings of Eagle Tattoos: Power and Pride

The eagle is a large, majestic and predatory bird and a popular choice in tattoos, thanks to its majestic look and meaningful symbolism.  It represents freedom and power, but there are many other meanings associated with it. Let’s take a look at the different variations of eagle tattoos and their symbolism.

Meanings of Eagle Tattoos

Eagle tattoo

1. Honor and Diligence

The eagle is a common symbol of honor and diligence, especially when associated with military units. Any type of eagle tattoo can represent these meanings. However, diligence and honor are best symbolized by tattoos of this magnificent bird surrounded by military icons like weapons, soldiers or the U.S. flag.

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2. Freedom

Commonly found throughout North America, the Bald Eagle is the country’s national bird and a powerful symbol of liberty. Its image is often used to portray the freedom and rights available to all citizens of America. Since the eagle itself is an independent bird that soars freely above the world, eagle tattoos generally signify freedom.

3. Willpower

Eagles use their instincts for traveling and hunting which is why they’re often viewed as a symbol of willpower. Therefore, eagle tattoos are highly popular among those who have strong willpower or those who wish to increase their willpower. The eagle tattoo is often worn by the leaders of certain recovery programs for this reason.

4. Courage

Courage is one of the characteristics that make eagles superior to other birds. They’re not intimidated by the strength or size of their prey and are completely fearless. In this way, the eagle tattoo suits those who fight for what they want in life regardless of the obstacles they may face. In most cases, people who wear the eagle tattoo for this reason will often have the word ‘fearlessness’ or ‘courage’ written above or below the image of the eagle to make its meaning clear.

5. Strength and Power

Eagles are considered to be the strongest and most powerful birds on Earth because of their ability to carry prey that weighs at up to four times their own weight. They have strong feet with curved talons, powerful wings which carry them in flight and the strength to kill animals such as jackals or small antelopes. Eagles have been a popular symbol of imperial power and war since the Babylonian times because of their excessive strength.

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eagle tattoo on shoulder
Large eagle tattoo

6. Survival

The Golden eagle is commonly found in Eurasia and North America  and has been closely linked with humans since the ancient times. It has long been used in falconry since it’s highly intelligent and can be trained for hunting. These birds are effective killers and hunters, making them a symbol of survival.

Types of Eagle Tattoos

The way eagles are depicted in tattoos and the accompanying words or graphics can affect the symbolism and meaning associated with it. Here are some of the most common variations of eagle tattoos and what they stand for:

1. Eagle Head Tattoo

This tattoo varies in design and size, symbolizing vision and focus. It’s usually done in black and white as well as in several colors, with intricate detail. Some tattoo enthusiasts tend to go for the double-headed eagle tattoo which signifies strength, power, honor and dominance.

2. Eagle’s Wings Tattoo

Eagle’s wings are one of the most popular types of eagle tattoos. They focus on the aspect of the eagle that makes it such a majestic animal – it’s large, dominant wings. The wings represent freedom, protection and stability. It’s the wings that give an eagle its power and authority.

3. Flying Eagle Tattoo

This tattoo depicts a flying eagle with its wings spread out, soaring through the sky. It’s a symbol of spiritual growth and freedom. This is because eagles are independent birds with unlimited freedom. This tattoo also symbolizes opportunity, wisdom or strength and is also worn as a symbol of authority and supreme power.

4. Fierce Eagle Tattoo

In some eagle tattoos, the eagle is depicted with its talons extended and beak open, as though it’s getting ready to attack something. This variation of the tattoo symbolizes courage, power, determination and strength.

5. Tribal Eagle Tattoo

These tattoos have their roots in Aztect and Native American traditions and beliefs. Although they may be depicted differently according to the tribe, they all have something in common: they portray the eagle in a position of command, symbolizing power, strength and spiritual wisdom.

6. German Eagle Tattoo

This tattoo is similar to a coat of arms and was once used over a swastika as an official symbol of the Nazis. Although this tattoo is often chosen as a symbol of one’s German heritage, many tend to misinterpret it and consider it as a Nazi symbol.

Tattoos of Eagles with Other Animals

Sometimes, eagle tattoos are combined with tattoos of other animals, the most common being tigers or wolves. These kind of tattoos usually represent the desire to infuse one’s human body with the nobility and strength of the eagle or the desire to possess a combination of certain powerful traits. Here are some of the most popular combinations.

1. Snake and Eagle Tattoos

On their own, serpent or snake tattoos and eagle tattoos have some similarities. They both portray fierceness and machismo. The main difference between the two is that snakes are associated with poison, evil and sin and the eagle represents all that’s right and good.

Snakes are often vicious and vindictive and wearing a snake tattoo often means that the bearer is vengeful and cannot be messed with, which is why these tattoos are highly popular among prisoners and criminal gangs.

When a tattoo depicts an eagle and a snake fighting, it usually means that a person’s two sides are in conflict. The eagle is often seen as the noble side of the person’s character whereas the snake is viewed as the darker, hidden side. The eagle is often the one winning, which could mean that although the person has experience many trials and tribulations, it’s ultimately their good side that wins.

Some tattoos depict both animals in a fight, with neither of them winning. This could mean that the person is still battling with their inner turmoil

2. Eagle and Wolf Tattoos

Wolves are mysterious animals that symbolize wisdom, loyalty, spiritual protection and femininity. Some view them as terrifying predators whose howl is known to send chills down our spines whereas others see them as guardians, warrior spirits or symbols of loyalty and strength.

When combined, wolf and eagle tattoos depict two of the strongest animals in the animal kingdom and are beautiful to look at. Together, these two animals in the same tattoo are symbolic of wild spirits and pride. Because the wolf’s domain is the land and the eagle’s is the sky, the tattoo also represents the duality of nature and life. These tattoos are also viewed as a symbol of patriotism for the U.S., since both these animals are strongly ingrained in American symbolism.

3. Eagle and Lion Tattoos

As the king of the jungle, the lion is a symbol of courage and bravery which is why it’s a popular choice for tattoos among many tattoo enthusiasts, especially among men. These tattoos typically signify the bearer’s fearlessness or overcoming challenges through courage.

When combined, lion and eagle tattoos are the ultimate representation of strength, freedom, courage, power, pride and dignity. While tattoos depicting the heads of both animals are  fairly common, another popular design is that of the griffin, a half-eagle, half-lion mythical creatures. Griffins are usually featured on crests, shields and suits of amor, symbolizing prestige, power and bravery.

Symbolism of Eagle Tattoos in Different Cultures

The eagle is a popular symbol in various cultures, traditions and mythologies throughout history. In some cultures, it’s regarded as a spiritual symbol whereas in others, it’s simply a symbol used to convey strength and power.   

The Eagle Tattoo in Native American Culture

Native Americans were highly spiritual people who passed down their ideas, beliefs, theories, history and thoughts through signs and symbols to their younger generations. They considered the eagle as a symbol of sacredness and they even held an eagle feather while praying.

The eagle’s feather is a symbol of healing in Native American culture. The Native Americans wear eagle feather tattoos to show their Native heritage or their connection with nature. They viewed it as the ultimate symbol of courage, since the bird itself is strong, brave and powerful.

Since the eagle is said to be the bird that flies the highest, the Native Americans believed that it was the closest creature to their Creator. As a result, they also believed that it could carry their prayers to the Spirit world and deliver them to the Great Spirit.

The Eagle Tattoo in Celtic Culture

In Celtic culture, the eagle is a symbol of dexterity, security, leadership, focus and strength. The Celts  refer to the eagle as a symbol of higher thinking since the birds are known for their intelligence. As a symbol, the eagle is a guide to train the Celtic people to sharpen their mental skills and rise above new challenges.

The symbolism of this majestic bird in Celtic culture is greatly varied and encompasses many concepts. The people believe these concepts should be applied in certain aspects of their lives so that, like the eagle, they would emerge victorious.

The Eagle Tattoo in Greek and Roman Cultures

Imperial Aquila

In Greek mythology, the eagle is a symbol closely associated with Zeus, the king of the gods. In some myths, Zeus took on the form of a majestic and powerful eagle to perform his will.

In Roman culture, eagles are especially prominent and are featured on many coins, banners and insignias. The eagle was considered a messenger and symbol of Jupiter, the Roman sky-god. Whenever a Roman emperor died, his body was cremated and an eagle was traditionally released above the funeral pyre, carrying his soul up to the heavens.

The Imperial Aquila, a two-headed eagle, remains one of the most prevalent and important of all Roman symbols, and can be found in architecture, artwork and other domains.

Celebrities with Eagle Tattoos

Eagle tattoos are a common choice among celebrities because of their association with American patriotism and their spiritual connotations. Many celebrities today wear eagle tattoos and see them as an important piece to add to their collection.

Justin Bieber

Justin Bieber is an obvious fan of tattoos since he’s virtually covered in them. He wears two eagle tattoos, one on his left bicep with a tiger tattoo just below it which could signify the desire to dominate many areas in life. The other is across his lower torso with the words ‘Son of God’ which has a spiritual meaning.

Amy Winehouse  

All of Amy Winehouse’s tattoos have their own personal meaning and most of them are similar to prison tattoos. Her eagle tattoo is in the middle of her back, depicting an ankh with the eagle’s wings on either side. The ankh is a symbol of eternal life force in Egyptian mythology and the eagle an ideal leader so it’s possible that the purpose of this tattoo was to give Amy a feeling of empowerment.

Adam Levine

Adam Levine’s eagle tattoo is similar to Justin Bieber’s in appearance and placement, sitting above the word ‘California’. It seems this tattoo represents Levine’s confidence and his desire to dominate the city of dreams. It could also simply mean courage.

Keith Urban

Keith Urban’s tattoo was a gift he gave himself on one of his birthdays during the time he was single. According to Keith, he spent a great deal of time in the U.S., enjoying his freedom and finally decided that the eagle would be a perfect tattoo to sum up how he was feeling and that particular period of his life. It appears on his right shoulder blade.

In Brief

Eagle tattoos are becoming increasingly popular in the tattoo world because of their impressive look and versatility. Almost anyone can find an eagle tattoo which relates to them which is why people from all walks of life wear them. The best thing about them is that they look great on anyone regardless of gender or age.

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Dani Rhys
Dani Rhys

Dani Rhys has worked as a writer and editor for over 15 years. She holds a Masters degree in Linguistics and Education, and has also studied Political Science, Ancient History and Literature. She has a wide range of interests ranging from ancient cultures and mythology to Harry Potter and gardening. She works as the chief editor of Symbol Sage but also takes the time to write on topics that interest her.