Compass Tattoo: Meaning, Designs and Photos

The compass tattoo has ancient origins and was common among sailors, as it represented a symbol of luck, an element of protection and guidance during navigation in dangerous waters. Together with there, the North Star was in fact the most reliable source for navigating by sea. The compass was the tool that could make the difference between the life and death of a ship’s crew to which the captain had to refer. It was the fixed point of the men of the sea, the only guide in times of difficulty.

Compass Tattoo

Meaning of the Compass

The compass symbol can have several meanings, one of them being that of freedom, being free like the wind.
As if it were a reminder to follow your dreams without ever losing sight of the path that will lead to them. Another interpretation of the compass symbol is to honor and learn from the past, while looking to the future,  focusing on all it has to offer.
This example is particularly good when you break up an important romantic relationship, leave it behind and focus on starting a new life. The compass, therefore, represents the ability to focus on oneself and situations, giving the right weight to the events of life.

Compass and Cardinal Points

Compass-themed tattoos often highlight cardinal points. Behind this particular design choice, there is a meaning of its own to be connected to every single point. Therefore, orienting the compass towards one cardinal point rather than another makes a huge difference. You can follow the meaning of cultures and religious beliefs, but also of the context in which they appear, there is even a fifth cardinal point, as in Chinese culture, which represents balance, that dimension to which every human being should strive and aspire. There is also a Masonic compass, with 5 cardinal points, which symbolizes the need to orient oneself in life. Let’s analyze the various meanings that each cardinal point assumes:

Compass Tattoo

  • NORTH: is the cardinal point that represents cold, and darkness, but also fear and primordial chaos.
  • SOUTH: unlike the north, the south represents light, youth, and day in most cultures.
  • East: is the cardinal point of the rising sun, therefore it represents rebirth, dawn, and renewal.
  • WEST: if the east represents rebirth and spring, the west instead is the cardinal point of autumn, of the dying sun, of the middle age. Virtually every culture associates the west with death, with things that perish.

Although taken individually, the four cardinal points may seem mostly negative, as a whole, a compass is an object that has a positive meaning, of orientation, which in the past performed a fundamental task for sailors and soldiers and which still today has a fundamental value despite the new technology.

Compass styles

The compass can be drawn in very different styles, although the most popular are mainly two:

  • On the one hand, the realistic style: a compass is a beautiful object in itself, which therefore can offer an excellent base for aesthetically important tattoos, without having to add any kind of embellishment or fantasy;
  • On the other hand, the Old School style, the one most typical of sailors, tattooed this very important tool more than a century ago.

A beautiful phrase that is often combined with tattoos of this symbol is ” Not all those who wander are lost ” by JRR Tolkien.

This nautical-style tattoo has a timeless charm and the fact that it is still one of the most common symbols among lovers of the old school and the sea is proof of this.

The compass is also popular in the category of small female tattoos: a compass on the wrist to never lose orientation, in a figurative sense.

Compass Tattoo Compass Tattoo


the west, on the other hand, is the cardinal point of autumn, of the dying sun, of middle age. The west is associated with death, with things that perish.

Although taken individually the four cardinal points may seem mostly negative, as a whole, a compass is an object that has a positive meaning, of orientation, which in the past has performed a fundamental task.


In any case, before choosing one style over another, it is important to keep in mind some factors strictly connected to the tattoo.

  • choose the right tattoo artist: Ligera Ink Tattoo Milano is a study that is attentive to both attention to detail and compliance with health and hygiene standards.
  • Be aware that, although our tattoo artists are wizards of lightness, the tattoo itself can cause pain depending on your tolerance threshold.

The tattoo

  • has a variable price: the cost depends on various components. The idea, the time, and the sterilized materials spent, to obtain a quality final product, are the elements that influence the expense of the tattoo.
  • Over time, it happens that you are no longer sure or satisfied with your tattoo. In this case, so-called “cover-ups” or total removal can be used. Each of these two actions involves a cost and, in the second case, consequences on the skin. So be sure when you go to your trusted tattoo artist.

Compass Tattoo Compass Tattoo


Ligera Ink Tattoo Milano takes into account all these dynamics and the exponential growth of the clientele is our best business card. A growth that testifies to a high level of satisfaction, mainly due to the aesthetic quality of the creations made by us. Ambition, curiosity, passion, and flexibility are the fundamental principles on which our policy is based, and at the same time, they are determining factors for our growth.

Our strength is based on the choice of professionals, the interpretative qualities of customer requests, communicative excellence, and the ability to achieve. The group of professionals is always ready to understand your wish and make it come true.


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