Eel Tattoos: Symbolism, Meanings & More

Eel Tattoos: Symbolism, Meanings & More

Tattoos surround us everywhere we go. On social media, on the streets, and on the skin of our friends. But what about a tattoo displaying a fearsome sea creature? What’s the deal with those?

Eel tattoos come from a sea creature seen as sacred by ancient civilizations. Nowadays, people tattoo them onto their body not only to show off the unique creature, but also to symbolize their elusiveness and display how they are more than they appear.

This article will cover the history, symbolism, meaning, location, and characteristics and styles of an eel tattoo.


What Is The History Of Eel Tattoos?

These tattoos originate from a sea creature held in high regard by ancient Egypt. Egypt saw these creatures as a symbol of the rising sun. In other areas in ancient times, like in some parts of Polynesia, eels were seen as a sacred breed.

Celtic lore depicted their war goddess turning herself into an eel and wrapping the hero around herself. Celtic lore held this in a heroic light, which extends to the fish. They saw these fish as sacred and heroic beings.

Eels themselves are a type of fish with ray-fins, and are predators. These fish were discovered in the Cretaceous Period, or 145.5 – 65.5 million years ago. These creatures live in the ocean, hunting other fish.

These beings are carnivores that eat other fish, crustaceans, and insects. They will eat anything that is smaller than them. This predator diet is why ancient civilizations held them in such a sacred light.


What Do Eel Tattoos Symbolize?

The symbolism behind tattoos are the most captivating parts of them. Although these fish appear fearsome, the symbolism goes deeper than that.

Having an eel tattoo symbolizes the one wearing the tattoo has the ability to survive what events and disasters may come.

This symbolism originates from the saying “as slippery as an eel”. That saying means the wearer is elusive and can escape situations easily. Along with that, this tattoo also symbolizes that the person donning it takes a serious approach to survival.

Masculine energy can also be symbolized through these tattoos. The reason for this is the appearance of an eel is more masculine in nature with sharp teeth and strong, long bodies. Eels, serpents, and dragons, who all have similar looks, are popular tattoos for men.


What Do Eel Tattoos Mean?

This fish has an uncanny appearance. It has a strange, long body, and odd eyes that would throw anyone off. Therefore, the meaning behind this tattoo goes deeper than the appearance of the ink. The meaning revolves around the idea of what appearance is.

The tattoo is teaching us to look past the surface. Eels are intimidating creatures with slimy bodies that appear disgusting. These sea creatures are elongated and gross despite how fascinating they are.

The meaning to take away is that people, like eels, have more going on than what is on the surface. Although these fish appear brutal, they have a history where they are seen as sacred. The same should be applied to the person with the tattoo.

Although appearance is a large portion of the meaning, another portion of it is growth as a person. Eels are a show of strength, and people who admire them are people who are working hard in life to grow and change for the better.

Eels are not very attractive, but they are hard-working. This means the tattoo is saying the same thing about people. An eel tattoo means there is more to the surface than appearance, growth is a core value of the person wearing it, and hard-work is imperative.


Where Do Eel Tattoos Usually Go?

One important step for choosing a tattoo is its location. As for a tattoo displaying a sea creature, there are multiple locations to put the ink. The most common area for these tattoos is on the arm.

The shape of the creature is elongated and looks like a worm. Thanks to these proportions, the arm is the best place to capture its length in the most detail. The figure can wrap around the skin, making it appear more 3D as well.

Another common spot for these tattoos are the shoulders leading down to the arm. The spiral-like designs allow for the coils of the eel to wrap around the top of the shoulder blade and down the top of the arm.

The back is another common spot. Like the arm and shoulder, the back is a long section of the human body where the eel will be properly displayed. However, the one downside to this is that getting a back tattoo is significantly more painful than the other options on this list.

Lastly, the calves are common spots as well. Similarly to the other three locations listed, the calves are long and will allow the length of the eel to shine on the skin. It is also common because calves and arms are less painful than the back to get a tattoo.


Characteristics And Styles Of Eel Tattoos

These special types of tattoos commonly consist of the following styles and characteristics:

  • Mixing exotic ink colors such as black and green together
  • Long bodies that wrap around the arm of the wearer
  • Coiled positions on the skin
  • Ray-fins that are on top of the eel
  • Little scratch and stretch marks added to the body of the eel
  • Intimidating face with sharp teeth
  • Little black bubbles on the eel to add more intricate detail to the tattoo
  • The eel coils around something such as a triton or wooden staff


Tattoos are fascinating, and eel tattoos have a meaning and depth to them that makes them unique. Not only do these tattoos look amazing and mix and match several ink colors, but they also have a rich and intriguing history from people from ancient times.

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