First of all, let’s understand the difference between swallows and sparrows. They are not the same thing. They are not the same bird and have vastly different meaning between them. Swallow and sparrow are different words that cannot be used interchangeably. Swallow tattoo is considered a traditional old-school design that symbolizes enduring love that first appeared on sailors during the World Wars.
Because swallows are known to always return home to San Juan Capistrano each year without fail, it was believed that sailors with a swallow tattoo would always return to their homes and families as well. Since they never fly too far from home, the sight of a swallow by a sailor was a symbol of hope; it meant they were close to land.
It was believed that if a sailor dies at sea, a swallow will carry his spirit to heaven. And, for instance, if a sailor had a friend who passed away, he may get a tattoo of a swallow with a dagger through its breast. Furthermore, swallows represent an enduring symbol of love and loyalty, as swallows are monogamous creatures and only choose one partner and will mate with them for life.
Swallow Tattoo Meaning
The tattoo of a swallow has a whole range of meanings. Among the most common swallow symbolism are:
- A safe return after a long departure
- Love and affection for family and friends
- Triumph Over Adversity
- Fighting Prowess
The symbolism of the Swallow and Meaning of Tattoo designs
The symbolic meaning of a swallow tattoo depends on the design of the tattoo.
- Swallow tattoos on the fist: These are tattoos typically worn by men and symbolize that the fists are quick to fly. They are a sign of a street fighter or one who is ready to defend those he loves and values.
- Colored swallow tattoos: going from the fact that swallows represent triumph over adversity, they are sometimes used by survivors of specific diseases to signify their victory over the disease. In this case, the swallow is depicted in the color of disease awareness. For example, a pink swallow typically symbolizes the wearer is a survivor of breast cancer, while a lavender swallow represents a survivor of any form of cancer. They may also represent awareness of specific diseases or conditions that affect the lives of the wearer.
- Swallow tattoos on the wrists: This tattoo design of a small bird is often worn by women and typically represents love for family, loyalty, freedom from an affliction, rebirth, or overcoming adversity.
- Swallow tattoos combined with other elements: These swallow tattoos are part of a larger design that may include a wide variety of symbols and images. They are commonly combined with natural items, such as flowers and foliage, and may contain hearts and slogans. The tattoo design may show a swallow in flight, or it may depict the bird at rest. Either from the upper or underside of the bird tattoo. The interpretation of the design depends on the combination of elements and the colors used but generally sends an uplifting and positive message.
- Flying swallow tattoos: The swallow, like any other traditional bird tattoo, such as the dove and sparrow, can range in size and presentation. Typically, the flying bird tattoo represents freedom or overcoming a difficult time. In the case of the swallow, a bird in flight often symbolizes the habit of swallows of returning home even after a long journey.
How do Swallow and Sparrow Tattoos Differ?
Both the swallow and the sparrow can represent freedom, undying love, or commitment to one person or loyalty. Still, the sparrow tattoo traditionally represented the mafia and is generally worn on the arm. The swallow has a forked tail with long curved wings and is usually portrayed in shades of blue or green, while the sparrow is a plump, brown bird with a short rather stout tail.
Best Swallow Tattoo Placements
The best body position for a swallow tattoo depends on the size of the tattoo and whether you desire to show off your tattoo to the world. Small swallow tattoos can be placed on the wrist, hand, foot, or shoulder while larger tattoos are better suited for the chest or back. For those men who desire to announce their fighting prowess, the tattoo is best placed on the back of the hand or fist.
Reasons to Choose a Swallow Tattoo
Swallow tattoos are a perfect choice for both men and women and can symbolize triumph, love, and devotion, or rebirth. As such, they give off a positive air and are likely to be viewed by others as uplifting and beautiful. These tattoos are typically tasteful and are readily accepted by the general public. Swallow tattoos representing fighting prowess may be considered less positively and may hinder work and business opportunities in some social settings.