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Representing everything from protection and spiritual guidance to a search for adventure and love, a compass design has a long history and rich symbolism in many cultures. This design is loved both by men and women not only for its deep symbolism but also for flexibility concerning different styles and variations.

Initially, compasses were used as divination instruments that were meant to guide people. Compasses first showed up in China during the Han Dynasty, and it was only in the 11th century that they became popularly used as navigation tools.

This old maritime symbol was popular among sailors and for them, this design represented a safe trip home. Over the years, this design has changed but it retained its original meaning despite being adapted to modern uses.

Below there is information about the meanings of compass tattoo designs and some compass tattoo ideas for your inspiration.


Meaning Of A Compass Tattoo

Compass tattoos are associated with navigation and a spiritual path. The major meanings are:

  • Guidance is the primary meaning because since ancient times, sailors have put this design as the sign of a safe trip home.
  • Protection is another sought-after denotation because sailors, adventurers, explorers wore a nautical compass tattoo as a lucky charm that protected against misfortune.
  • The implementation of a life plan is the meaning of the compass tattoo because the compass points to the desired direction.
  • Pursuing a dream is another denotation of the compass design because it conveys a human desire to explore new destinations, try new things and achieve goals. It is symbolic of staying your course in life and to not give up no matter how rough things may seem. The compass will guide you where you need to be.
  • Hope is a popular meaning because in the past, the ocean was a scary and rough place and the compass symbolized a safe trip. The modern meaning is a motivation to stay on track and to move further.
  • Loyalty is one of the meanings of this design as military servicemen and women use it as the symbol of loyalty and trust.
  • Luck is one of the meanings because initially this design was worn as a lucky charm.
  • Confusion is a rare meaning, which is represented by a combination of the compass and an arrow. Also, it can indicate that the owner has gone through a tough period in life.
  • Harmony is one of the meanings because the compass has a circle shape and that is why it represents unity and harmony.
  • A reminder of home is a popular denotation of the design and it outlines a desire to return home.


Besides, there are different variations of the compass tattoo that have various meanings:

  • A Celtic compass resembles the Celtic Trinity knot and it expresses pride in one’s ancestry.
  • A vintage compass is worn by those, who have spent time in the Navy and for them, a vintage compass means protection. For others, the vintage compass expresses love for history.
  • An anchor compass carries a religious meaning because the anchor is a common symbol of Christian faith. It may indicate protection, hope, and spiritual guidance.
  • A heart compass also denotes guidance and it means that the person lets his heart guide him.
  • A map compass embodies an adventurer – a person, who is passionate about traveling, discoveries, and vivid emotions.
  • A rose compass is also known as a Windrose or Rose of the Winds and it is associated with a search for love.
  • A Vegvisir compass is also known as a Viking compass and it represents spiritual guidance and protection.
  • A prismatic compass indicates a safe trip and the choice of the right direction in life.
  • A star compass features an appealing design, representing the North Star. People used the North Star as a guide in the right direction. Therefore, this design denotes guidance.
  • The compass and a clock or an hourglass is a common combination. It means that the person realizes that life is fleeting and he or she wants to live life to the fullest.
  • The compass and fish express your love for the sea.

Compass Tattoo Ideas

The compass tattoo can be done in many styles and the most popular are tribal, dotwork, traditional, Trash Polka, and one of the most admired variants for men and women is a watercolor compass tattoo. So, if you’ve decided to get inked, then here are tattoos for your inspiration.


Posted by Igor Ovsyannykov

I'm a digital nomad and entrepreneur bouncing around South East Asia. When I'm not working here, I'm out taking photos for Follow me on Instagram: @igorovsyannykov

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