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What is the Meaning of Compass Tattoos

By Mary Smith. Updated: January 16, 2017
What is the Meaning of Compass Tattoos
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More than once in your life, you'll have definitely seen someone with a compass tattoo somewhere on their body and you may have wondered about its meaning. The compass is normally used for people to navigate natural environments such as mountains or oceans, because it points towards the earth's North magnetic pole. Besides this practical use, other meanings can be attributed to compasses - especially when inked into our skin.

In this OneHowTo article we'll tell you what is the meaning of compass tattoos so you'll understand the reasons why people get them, and also so you can decide if they fit with your personality and lifestyle.

You may also be interested in: What Is the Meaning of Arrow Tattoos

The tradition of compass tattoos

Compasses are a type of old school tattoo which was very popular among sailors, since it was the nautical instrument which allowed them to return home safe and sound. Compass tattoos usually represent old, historically-inspired compasses which include the North Star -the star that marks North and helps orientation in open seas - and almost always a windrose, also called a compass rose or Rose of the Winds. This marks the different cardinal directions, which aid navigation and help us know in which direction we need to head.

Sailors therefore chose to get compass tattoos on their skin so that they were protected on their voyages in open seas. Furthermore, it was also considered the only element in which they could find comfort as they longed for home, thus placing their fate in the hands of this precious object. This is why many sailors got a compass tattooed on their body.

Over the years, the compass has remained one of the most popular designs among tattoo artists, and has even managed to retain its original meaning despite being adapted to modern uses.

What is the Meaning of Compass Tattoos - The tradition of compass tattoos
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Compass tattoos to find your way

Following in the wake of the traditional meaning of compass tattoos, one of the more modern motives to ink that object is as a reminder and motivation to stay on track, find your way in life or stay in the right path. Just as sailors used these devices to find their way home, these tattoos can now be extrapolated and refer to a broader and more metaphorical voyage: the journey of life, your destiny.

In this sense, a compass tattoo can be combined with phrases or other elements which share or add to that meaning of direction in life. Being balanced, continuing straight ahead and building a fulfilling life are some of the reasons why people decide to get these tattoos.

What is the Meaning of Compass Tattoos - Compass tattoos to find your way
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The compass as symbol of luck and protection

There are also people who decide to get a compass tattooed as a symbol of good luck, as did the sailors of yesteryear. Bearing this on your skin will bring you good luck because it will keep you on track throughout life, stop you from losing your sense of self and to be consistent in your way of being and thinking.

In modern days, the symbol has the same meaning, only amplified. Nowadays, a compass tattoo can indicate that you want to stay true to yourself and not get carried away by any currents that may occur in the voyage of your life. This tattoo can also represent strength, safety and bravery.

What is the Meaning of Compass Tattoos - The compass as symbol of luck and protection
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A compass to help you to achieve your goals

Another answer to what is the meaning of compass tattoos refers to an element found within: the North Star at the top of the Rose of the Winds. Seamen used to turn to this star at nights for guidance; it would point North and thus help them find their way back home or get to the goal of their voyage.

As such, these tattoos can also be currently understood as a symbol that helps you to achieve your goals. The compass can keep you on path and help you reach your targets. The compass represents the direction and guidance which you should follow when you set a target.

What is the Meaning of Compass Tattoos - A compass to help you to achieve your goals
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A compass as a symbol of home

There are increasing numbers of people who live far away from home, and many opt to get a compass tattoo on their skin as a reminder of home, outlining their desire to return and as a reminder of the route they must take.

People who live at home but have a relative or loved one living far away can also get them; in this case, it means that your home lies with that other person, not in your country. As such, this design is also one of the most commonly chosen by couples, indicating that their true home is with the other person.

What is the Meaning of Compass Tattoos - A compass as a symbol of home
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A compass as a symbol of wanderlust

Many travel lovers also choose to get a compass tattoo on their body to signal that the whole world is their home. These designs are often accompanied by world maps or other typical elements for travelling (such as planes or maps) since it makes the meaning of the tattoo even clearer.

Don't forget that the compass is the basic tool for travel, both in open seas and on land, and therefore this tattoo is one of the most suitable if what you love is boarding a plane and travelling from one corner of the world to another to learn and discover as much as possible.

What is the Meaning of Compass Tattoos - A compass as a symbol of wanderlust
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