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What Does A Butterfly Tattoo Mean?

Butterflies are pretty. Very pretty. They paint the air with delicate stained-glass wings that reveal nature’s quiet beauty as they flutter. These remarkable insects live among the flowers, sipping nectar and seemingly adding a touch of enchantment to our lives when we see them. So, it’s little surprise that they have become a powerful symbol in tattoos and tattoo designs.

Butterfly tattoos are arguably some of the most popular and versatile designs in body art. They can symbolize a great many things, from beauty to transformation, from freedom to spirituality. But what does a butterfly tattoo mean? Well, that depends on where you ask.

The meaning of a butterfly tattoo can vary depending on the culture or country where you get it. For example, butterflies can be seen as a sign of prosperity in Japan. In China, they can represent the immortality of love, while in South American countries like Mexico, they are often associated with the souls of the dead. Some Native American tribes also see butterflies as bringers of good luck and dreams, and these meanings matter in butterfly body art, especially if you resonate with these cultures.

Another factor that can influence the meaning of a butterfly tattoo is the colour. Different colours can have different meanings, and some people choose to combine different colours to share the unique expression of their personality.

So, let’s dive into the meaning of butterfly tattoos in more detail while looking at inspirations for what could potentially become your favourite piece of body art.

What Does A Butterfly Tattoo Mean In Different Cultures And Countries?

Butterfly tattoos are way more than just mere beautiful designs. They have a ton of different meanings in different cultures across the world. The symbolism and significance of butterfly tattoos from other countries can give you some curiosity and inspiration with your body art. Let’s look at a few of these:


Butterfly tattoos are quite popular in Japan, as they have a rich and complex symbolism in the Asian country’s culture. Blue butterflies symbolize prosperity and are believed to bring good fortune, and tattoos based on them have similar symbolism. These insects are also associated with death and rebirth, and they can be tattooed as a tribute to a loved one who has passed on.


In China, butterfly tattoos aren’t just a trendy design. Ever heard of the Chinese love tale where lovers become butterflies? Yep, butterflies here symbolize passionate love. So, if you want to sport a butterfly tattoo, it could be to channel some deep romantic vibes.


In Mexico, butterfly tattoos aren’t always just about aesthetics. Especially around the Day of the Dead, butterflies are believed to be the souls of the departed. The Monarch butterfly migrations are seen by many locals as spirits returning home. So, taking a cue from Mexicans, rocking a butterfly tattoo might mean you’re holding close to a loved one who’s passed. It could also signify that you’re vibing with the whole circle-of-life concept.

Native American culture

For Native Americans, butterfly tattoos are about rebirth and even transformation – from a crawling caterpillar to a free-flying beauty. Some tribes even believe butterflies carry dreams and messages from the spirit world. These tattoos are a great way to celebrate personal growth or channel spiritual energy.

What Does Colour Mean in Butterfly Tattoos?

Butterflies are beautiful, and there’s no surprise that their vibrant hues show up in butterfly tattoos. Those colours aren’t always just for show, as each shade holds unique significance and some cultural symbolism.

Black Butterfly Tattoos

Source @saulovesink via Instagram

Across cultures, black butterfly tattoos are all about mystery, darkness, death, and major life shifts. Plus, it’s a nod to the life, death, and rebirth cycle.

White Butterfly Tattoos

White Butterfly Tattoos Source @lionfish_collective via InstagramSource @lionfish_collective via Instagram

Many people see white butterflies as soulful guides or good spirits. White butterfly tattoos might be about embracing innocence, healing, or a spiritual connection, like having a guardian angel.

Blue Butterfly Tattoos

Blue Butterfly Tattoos Source @dre_ortiz.tattoos via InstagramSource @dre_ortiz.tattoos via Instagram

These symbolize new beginnings, beauty, and creativity. Blue butterflies are rare and unique, and in some cultures, they can mean good fortune when you see them. They’re also seen as peaceful and tranquil.

Red Butterfly Tattoos

Red Butterfly Tattoos Source @teeski_ink via InstagramSource @teeski_ink via Instagram

Fiery love and burning passion. There’s really no better colour to show intense emotion when it comes to butterfly tattoos. Red butterfly tattoos aren’t only about emotions though, as some cultures believe they bring a sprinkle of good luck.

Purple Butterfly Tattoos

Purple Butterfly Tattoos Source @tattoo.haneul via InstagramSource @tattoo.haneul via Instagram

Stunning purple hues on butterflies can signify deep connections and a connection to the cosmos. It’s also a shoutout to majesty, wealth, and royalty, with a bit of magic. Some cultures, like the ancient Aztecs, thought they were about souls and rebirth.

Butterfly Tattoo Designs and Their Meanings

Butterflies are not just pretty wings. Each design tells a different story, so let’s flutter through these designs and their meanings.

Monarch Butterfly Tattoo

Monarch Butterfly Tattoo Source @nicetattooparlor via InstagramSource @nicetattooparlor via Instagram

These are all about flaunting beauty and channelling your regal energy. With those standout orange and black wings, they’re truly remarkable butterflies. If you’ve had a difficult journey to get to where you are today, their long migrations can also inspire your design.

Blue Butterfly Tattoo

Blue Butterfly Tattoo Source @laurenblairtattoo via InstagramSource @laurenblairtattoo via Instagram

What does this butterfly tattoo mean on a woman? It can express grace and femininity, especially if other creative elements are added to the tattoo. It’s also culturally about a dash of luck and prosperity.

Rose and Butterfly Tattoo

Rose and Butterfly Tattoo Source @lotustattoohemet via InstagramSource @lotustattoohemet via Instagram

This design is a beautiful way to combine two icons of passion, love, and drop-dead beauty. It speaks volumes about your adoration for your partner or a loved one. It also includes hints of change and rebirth.

Skull Butterfly Tattoo

Skull Butterfly Tattoo Source @body_art_tattooz via InstagramSource @body_art_tattooz via Instagram

This is a wild mashup of life meets death. It could be your profound way of looking at the life cycle and embracing the inevitable. Both symbols hint at life’s start and end, and in many ways, it shows just how much you’ve accepted your mortality.

Simple Butterfly Tattoo

Simple Butterfly Tattoo Source @dreamcatcher_tattoos via InstagramSource @dreamcatcher_tattoos via Instagram

It’s certainly minimalist, as it doesn’t include other creative elements like other designs might. But that doesn’t take away its elegance. it’s a canvas for your spirit, letting you keep the focus of your tattoo on the butterfly itself. It’s also a pretty cool way of showcasing your love for those remarkable insects.

Flower Butterfly Tattoo

Flower Butterfly Tattoo Source @geovanilizarazo7 via InstagramSource @geovanilizarazo7 via Instagram

Perfect for nature lovers, this design celebrates growth, variety, and those feel-good vibes. It’s a shoutout to your love for nature’s artistry and beauty. As for the flower choice? It’s entirely your call. You could opt for a flower your partner loves, or whichever’s your personal favourite.

Semicolon Butterfly Tattoo

Semicolon Butterfly Tattoo Source @xxhoneyxdripxx via InstagramSource @xxhoneyxdripxx via Instagram

What does a semicolon butterfly tattoo mean? You’ve probably spotted those butterfly semicolon tattoos. They’re not just artsy; they’ve got a deep story. They’re often inked by people who have battled mental health demons. What does the butterfly mean in mental health? It’s all about growth, breaking free, and finding the light after the storm.

Wing Butterfly Tattoo

Wing Butterfly Tattoo Source @matildatattoos via InstagramSource @matildatattoos via Instagram

All of the symbolic meanings around butterflies are focused on the wings in this design. It’s a way to channel your wanderlust and free spirit, taking inspiration from the freely flying insects. Detailed wings would sit well as large tattoos, perfectly suited for the chest or back.

Tribal Butterfly Quote

Tribal Butterfly Quote Source @hectorlopeztattoo via InstagramSource @hectorlopeztattoo via Instagram

This isn’t just ink. it’s ancestry on skin. With tribal patterns, you’re sharing your respect and allegiance to your cultural roots, strength, and even some spiritual mystique. There are many tribal elements you can add to your tattoo, including a mandala or a dreamcatcher. A tribal feather or symbol that has meaning to you can also enhance your tattoo.

Quote Butterfly Tattoo

Quote Butterfly Tattoo Source @overzealous.ink via InstagramSource @overzealous.ink via Instagram

Words meet wings. What’s your life mantra? What’s that snippet of wisdom that’s helped you through a difficult time? You can pair a really personal quote with a butterfly tattoo as a message to yourself on your skin.

Butterfly Tattoo Aftercare

Taking care of that fresh ink after you’ve gotten your butterfly tattoo? There are some important tips to follow if you want it to look perfect and retain its colour for years to come.

Firstly, your tattoo artist knows their stuff, so listen to their advice on how to take care of it. Also, give it a gentle wash, use some no-scent lotion every once in a while, and skip sunbathing for a bit.

You’ll also need to skip the pool and hot tub parties until you’re fully healed. If you see some scabby bits or flaky skin, leave it alone. Don’t pick at scabs, and resist the urge to scratch the itch, so your tattoo can stay clean and look fresh for the long term.

Butterfly Tattoo Placements and Their Meanings

If you’re thinking of getting a butterfly inked, you still have a big decision to make: Where do you place that beauty on your body? Placement is really important. It can evolve the meaning of your tattoo or help you keep it hidden if necessary.

Before diving into getting a butterfly tattoo, think about what’s you – your style, the design that resonates deeply with you, and your personal story. Butterflies fit anywhere as tattoos, but where they are placed will matter differently to each person. Here are some favourite placement spots for butterfly tattoos and what they might mean:


Wrist Source @evelyn.tatts via InstagramSource @evelyn.tatts via Instagram

The wrist is one of the hottest spots to rock a butterfly tattoo. It’s right there in the open, but it’s quite flexible and easy to hide if you need to do so. Depending on its look and vibe, a wrist butterfly can reveal different concepts – beauty, freedom, or even big-time life changes.

You’ve got options with this placement. You could go wild or simple with colours on your inner or outer wrist. A butterfly bracelet also works. The downside, maybe, is the size of the wrist, as it will be hard to place a large butterfly tattoo there.


Shoulder Source @fateandfortunetattoostudio via InstagramSource @fateandfortunetattoostudio via Instagram

Ever thought about getting a butterfly tattoo on the shoulder? It’s right there on display, especially if you love wearing tank tops, but it’s also easy to keep hidden. Now, depending on its design, a shoulder butterfly can mean different things. Shoulders are about strength and carrying burdens, so your butterfly there can be about courage and taking action.

As for size, it’s totally your call. Maybe a small butterfly on top of your shoulder could be your thing. If you’re bold, you can make a big statement piece that spans across the back and even down your arms and chest.


Ankle Source @vasia via InstagramSource @vasia via Instagram

The ankle is a super cool choice for a butterfly tattoo, as the placement has often been seen as somewhat rebellious. A striking design on your ankle will look like catching a butterfly in mid-flight. Plus, the ankle is low-key. Want to show it off? Easy. Need it hidden? Wear long pants. It doesn’t have to be small, as you can go big and detailed. If you like, span the tattoo across to your feet and up your legs.


Back Source @rydelreib_tattoo via InstagramSource @rydelreib_tattoo via Instagram

The back is a perfect placement for those who want their butterfly tattoos to express their spirituality and individuality. Thinking about a butterfly tattoo on the back? It’s a super impressive choice, as it always looks dramatic and amazing. The best part? The back’s like a canvas – big and ready for any art piece. Whether you want a tiny butterfly near the shoulder or a massive one with its wings spread wide across the back, it’s all up to you.


Chest Source @touagelibreexpression via InstagramSource @touagelibreexpression via Instagram

Butterflies symbolize transformation and freedom, and where better than right over the heart? It’s like wearing your evolution, beauty, and spirit on your chest. It’s up close and personal, intimately telling anyone who sees it a bit about your journey, emotions, or what you stand for. Plus, it’s right over your heartbeat, making it even more sentimental.


Butterfly tattoos are like a sneak peek into who you are. They can mean a ton of things, from change and freedom to deep spirituality. Depending on where your inspiration comes from, the colour you pick, or where you place it, the meaning can change to suit your individuality.

We’ve shared some popular butterfly tattoo designs and their meanings, and we’ve got you covered on where you might want to get it inked. So, if you’re thinking of getting one, we hope we’ve lit a spark!

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