Richard Hale is a tattoo enthusiast who studies and researches tattoo symbolism, meanings, and history.
Traditional Dagger Tattoos
The dagger tattoo is not considered to be a mainstream tattoo, although there are many who are drawn to this design. Weapons are generally not accepted in the mainstream. The dagger itself has many associated meanings on its own, but your tattoo can be inked with a variety of different symbols and elements to emphasize the meaning you have in mind.
Most dagger tattoos are in the medium-size range. The shape of a dagger (narrow and long) predisposes it to certain parts of the body: It fits nicely on arms, legs, hips, or backs.
In this article, we will explore dagger tattoo designs and meanings, with many photographs. Hopefully, you will be able to get an idea or two for your next tattoo.
Word—that invisible dagger.
— Emile M. Cioran
Oh, I know I'm a fool to keep stayin'
When you've made hurtin' me such an art,
Tossed around like a used box of crayons,
It's like a dagger through the heart
— Dolly Parton
The Dagger in History
A dagger is a fighting weapon, a short two-sided blade with a very sharp point used for thrusting or stabbing. Most daggers have a full crossguard to keep the hand from sliding down onto the sharp blade.
Its design dates back to human prehistory, and daggers have been used for close combat in many different civilizations throughout human history. In Neolithic times, daggers were made of things like flint, bone, or ivory. The earliest metal daggers were made of copper, during the Bronze Age, around 3000 BC. In pre-dynastic Egypt, elaborate daggers with golden hilts were worn by royalty as ceremonial or decorative objects: In Tutankhamun's tomb, they found two daggers. In WWI, soldiers at the front used daggers in trench warfare; after the war, those daggers were displayed with pride as a sign of having served on the front line. During the Vietnam War, many US soldiers and marines carried daggers. Although today daggers are no longer carried openly, they are sometimes carried concealed. A sheathed boot knife, for example, might be worn strapped to the lower leg.
Seppuku (切腹, "stomach-cutting", "abdomen-cutting") is a Japanese ritual suicide, originally reserved only for samurai, but later by anyone who wanted an honorable death. This ritual was carried out with a Japanese dagger called a tantō. Samurai used seppuku for two reasons: to ensure that they died with honor rather than fall into enemies' hands or to rectify dishonor or shame they had brought on themselves.
"Cloak and dagger" is a phrase that describes things that involve mystery, intrigue, or espionage. Because they are so easily concealed, daggers may be associated with deception, stealth, and treachery. Thus, the dagger makes an ideal weapon for a sneak attack, and many assassinations have been done with daggers, including that of Julius Caesar. Alternatively, in some cultures, the dagger symbolizes bravery. Daggers are often seen in the insignias of elite military units or special forces, depicting extraordinary courage.
According to Arthurian legend, King Arthur himself wore a dagger named Carnwennan (or Little White-Hilt) which was said to have the magical ability to hide its user in shadow. And in Tolkien's stories, the hobbit Bilbo Baggins carried a long Elvish dagger he named Sting.
What Can a Dagger Tattoo Mean?
Dagger tattoos hold a variety of different symbolic meanings for those who wear them. Over the years, tattoo artist and wearers have put their own creative twist on the design.
Daggers have been used for display, fighting, games, and sacrifice. Dagger tattoos can be used to represent the same thing. Sometimes, this tattoo might be a warning to others of hidden dangers in the wearer; other times, it can be a visual reminder for the tattoo wearer of dangers hidden in others.
Read More from Tatring
One advantage of the dagger tattoo is that the design is easily mixed with other symbols: roses, snakes, swallows, vines, hearts, skulls, flames, dragons, feathers, and more.
- A dagger piercing a heart: This design represents betrayal, a broken heart, or lost love.
- A dagger-and-skull tattoo, with a blade, either piercing or placed behind the skull, symbolizes death, memory, protection, or bravery.
- A dagger piercing a cherry comes from ancient China and represents immortality.
- The dagger-and-rose tattoo can be portrayed with a rose in front of or pierced by the dagger. The dagger can also have a rose painted on it. This design symbolizes the harsh reality of life. It is linked to the phrase "life is no bed of roses" and represents the strength needed to endure. It can be a reminder to stay strong or keep at it.
- The dagger-and-swallow variation was and still is popular among sailors. The swallow represents good luck, wealth, and a safe passage. This design might express hope for a safe trip home.
- A dagger with serpents may represent an association with the Roman god Mercury.
- A bloody dagger can represent death, spilled blood, and sacrifice. In Central America and parts of Europe, the dagger was used in battle and rituals of sacrifice.
These are just a few of the different variations of dagger tattoos, which goes to show how the meaning of the tattoo can change with the incorporation of other symbols.
Consciousness is much more than the thorn, it is the dagger in the flesh.
— Emile M. Cioran
Dagger Tattoo Meanings
I wear not my dagger in my mouth
What to Remember Before Getting a Tattoo
There are some important things to remember before you choose to get any tattoo:
- Make sure you take the time to do your research. Don't rush to get inked!
- Fully understand what your tattoo design represents and means before you get inked.
- Take the time to personalize your design.
Thanks for your visit.
Cruel with guilt, and daring with despair, the midnight murderer bursts the faithless bar; invades the sacred hour of silent rest and leaves, unseen, a dagger in your breast.
— Samuel Johnson
© 2012 Richard Ricky Hale
Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on April 30, 2012:
Ausseye, always a pleasure pal. I can see your point for sure. Yes, that is what I would call it, art vs. politics. It seems to me that some political members have beef with bikers that own dragon tattoos. Seems extreme. It would appear that it is a stereotype of bikers, as if they are all gang members, murderers, organized crime, ect. I reckon long hair, black vest, and boots qualify you to be a biker? So interesting.
Ausseye on April 22, 2012:
HiLyric: Bit of an update on Australian policy……into law will go “ Bikers are not allowed to own a tattoo parlour “……no Dragon on these bikers humm. Must be art vs. conservative politics. Need thick skin to work through the world outside. Politicians must want to keep the Dragon tattoo for themselves!!!! Daeye to down under ….
Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on April 20, 2012:
*AE, always great to hear from you. I agree, they are vivid. I think this gives them an advantage as a tattoo symbol. There is a lot you can do with them.
*Gypsy, always a pleasre to hear from you. Thank you for all your support. Take care.
*Ausseye, thanks for dropping by. I get what you are saying. I can appreciate one's opinion. Interesting perspective on upstream/downstream. Agreed. I am not a political supporter to be honest. Yes, if we vote, they get into office. The support stops there because no matter what I do, they are going to do what they want once they are in. After voting, I see politics as "pointless".
*Alocsin, great to have you come by. Great point. You can do a lot with dagger tattoos. They are very versitile when it comes to shape, color, design, and size. A great symbol to use.
*Frank the Tank! Appreciate you coming by my friend. Glad you liked them.
Frank Atanacio from Shelton on April 13, 2012:
these tats are fantatic.. thanks for the share :) Frank
Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on April 13, 2012:
One advantage of the dagger tattoo is that it can be small and subtle, or large and colorful as in your examples. Voting this Up and Beautiful.
Ausseye on April 13, 2012:
HILyric: Great hub and visually stunning. What a great list of qualities you have attached to the dragon tattoo, pity you left out shit, basted, egocentric, pathological, psychopath, sociopath and life’s antiforce. Now that just sitting next to worthy, nodal, trustworthy and politically correct…....yes politicians are the best and most should wear the dragon. Fire and destruction are their thing and we give it artistic merrit. While the art is fine the symbol is the antipathy of what we have learnt from ancient time 2000 BC China and the theory of Chi…....we are all connected by water, if you poison it upstream it affects those down stream, it creates grief may not go upstream to affect you but it does what it does. Don’t mind the symbol just hate, yes hate, the people that wear it as a badge of honour. Hope it’s a bike to hell, which I know doesn’t exist, but if only!!!!!
Gypsy Rose Lee from Daytona Beach, Florida on April 13, 2012:
Really sharp and colorful tattoos.
Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on April 12, 2012:
Wow, These are really colorful. The pictures are vivid and sort of daring..Thank's for sharing again...