Butterfly tattoos meaning

Butterfly Tattoos: What Do They Really Mean? - Sorry Mom

Butterfly tattoos have withstood the test of time as they are maintained as some of the most popular tattoos found. 


Butterflies are revered for their beautiful imagery, vibrant colors, and historical and symbolic meanings that have made them the favorite of many tattoo artists and clients.


Butterfly tattoo old school


But, what is the meaning of butterfly tattoos?


Butterflies undergo a process of metamorphosis, where a caterpillar seals itself within a chrysalis and undergoes a transformation into a butterfly after breaking out of its cocoon.


This process itself serves as a metaphor that individuals associate with trauma or emotional moments in their lives that they want to commemorate on their bodies through their tattoos, hence the popularity of butterfly tattoos.


But that's not all. 


In this article, we'll cover the symbolism behind butterfly tattoos throughout different cultures and parts of the world.


Read also: 60 Most Popular Tattoos & Their Meanings


What Does a Butterfly Tattoo Symbolize?

The symbolism behind butterflies differs widely between various cultures.

Knowing the cultural significance of a particular image can further contribute to the importance of a tattoo itself. There is a plethora of meanings associated with butterflies yet some of the most commonly, butterflies symbolize the idea of rebirth after trauma, transformation, and even freedom.

Butterfly tattoo meanings in different cultures

Butterfly species also have special meanings associated with them throughout the world:

- Young love in China & marriage in Japan

This meaning is largely derived from one of China’s most famous legends called Butterfly Lovers, a tale about two star-crossed lovers.

This tale folk tale is often compared to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet because of the concept of unrequited young love that is the main theme of the tale.


Therefore, butterflies’ tattoos often connote a romantic meaning because they can also represent young love; as butterflies fly among flowers, so do young people with their social lives.

In Chinese culture, butterflies are also emblematic of immortality, joy, grace, and summer.


In Japan, butterflies are associated with marriage and weddings.


Butterfly tattoo meaning old school


- Symbol of the departed/afterlife in Aztec and Celtic cultures


For the Aztecs, butterflies were used as symbols of remembrance. They are commonly used to symbolize infants who have passed away and past warriors who have died in battle. 


In Mexico, monarch butterflies signify the spirits of those who have departed.


Similarly, Celtic butterflies represent the afterlife. Butterflies also bear the symbolism of souls in Irish folklore.


Butterfly tattoos: Other meanings

- Femininity

Their delicate wings and vibrant colors are also closely tied with femininity. The painted beauty of butterflies is frequently tied with the nature of feminine energy.

- Freedom

As they occupy flowers during the summer months, they are some of the most commonplace insects for humans. Their vibrant wings represent flight and freedom, which is another common meaning associated with them, especially in the tattoo world.

- Confidence

Butterflies are often chosen to represent obstacles that an individual has overcome, and are related with confidence, or the act of obtaining confidence.

Butterflies begin as caterpillars before transforming into the beautiful creatures that they are, which serves as a metaphor for personal growth, regaining a strong sense of self, and overcoming the challenges of finding your individuality.

Butterfly tattoo meaning fine line

What Does a Blue Butterfly Tattoo Mean?

Because butterflies come in a variety of colors, certain colors are often representative of a particular message.

When it comes to blue butterfly tattoos, many people share the belief that this imagery represents good luck and bliss in life. Blue butterfly tattoos signify a good luck charm.

Another example of color dictating meaning would be through the symbolism of yellow butterflies, which are representative of joy and happiness.

Colors can significantly change the meaning of an image and when you are designing your tattoo with your tattoo artist, consider the colors that you might be incorporating into the image that you are planning on inking onto your skin forever.

What Does a Rose and Butterfly Tattoo Mean?

Like butterflies, roses are another one of the most common images tattooed onto the skin around the world.

When it comes to combining a rose and a butterfly and inking this onto your skin, this connotes a very specific meaning. A rose and butterfly tattoo represents turning over a new leaf in romance or love. This can mean growth and transformation after a particularly difficult end to a relationship in your life, whether it is romantic or not.

For some, a rose and a butterfly connote freedom and liberation after a relationship.

Some people combine the images to represent finding their individuality after losing themselves as they devote themselves to a partner.

Read also: Rose tattoos and their meanings

What Can I Add to My Butterfly Tattoo?

For those who want another component to their butterfly tattoo, adding aspects of nature like flowers to the symbolic meaning of your tattoo is a nice touch that will flow beautifully with the imagery of your design. This can also create a nice balance in your tattoo that is delicate throughout.

Butterfly wings are a great canvas to incorporate a creative dimension to your tattoo because an artist can easily incorporate text or symbols within the design of the wing.

Butterflies are the perfect opportunity to include dates, initials, and names because the wing of a butterfly is often composed of organic shapes and curves that make for the perfect canvas.

Butterfly small tattoo fine line


When it comes to tattoos, the imagery of the papillon can evoke deep emotions and represent significant events in your life that you might want to commemorate.

As we've seen, the meaning and symbolism behind butterflies are rich in culture and history. 
Butterflies are easily recognizable all over the world because of their organic designs that one cannot help but marvel at.


When it comes to your next tattoo, choosing a butterfly as the focal point of your design will give your tattoo artist the creative freedom to design something distinct and special.


Last but not least, remember that you can attribute your tattoo with whatever meaning you would like because tattoos are extremely personal to the individual.