Icarus Tattoo: Symbolism, Meanings & More

Icarus Tattoo: Symbolism, Meanings & More

Most of us have heard the saying ‘don’t fly too close to the sun’ and know that it is a warning against over-confidence and the pitfalls of taking risks. It has its origins in the Greek mythological story of Icarus, and it is a popular subject for tattoos because it is a poignant and evocative reminder of misguided ambition.

This article lists everything you need to know if you’re considering getting an Icarus tattoo. This includes an examination of its history, origins in Greek mythology, symbolism, characteristic styles, and where people usually get them placed on their bodies.


What is the history of the Icarus tattoo?

The Icarus story is part of Ancient Greek mythology. This massive body of literature and artwork is concerned with the origin and nature of the universe and it has had a profound and undeniable impact on the culture, arts, language, and literature of Western civilization.

The story of Icarus is one of restraint, self-control, and prudence. It is a conservative story and only came into prominence as a popular tattoo as a reaction against the counter-culture ideas that thrived in the 1960s. This was a time of free thought, free sex, and the loss of inhibitions. The story of Icarus is a warning against the excesses of youthful overconfidence and the consequences of such


What does Icarus symbolize?

The story of Icarus comes from Greek Mythology and it is one of the world’s most popular and enduring fables.

It is the tale of a young man named Icarus who, alongside his father Daedalus, is trapped on the Greek island of Crete by the evil King Minos. In order to escape, Daedalus builds a set of wax and feather wings that he and his son can use to fly themselves to freedom.

Before they take flight, Daedalus has two warnings for his son:

  • First, he must not fly too high to the sun so that the heat won’t melt the wax holding the wings together.
  • Second, he must not fly too close to the ocean so that the damp sea mist won’t clog up the feathers.

With both complacency and hubris, Icarus ignores his father’s warnings and he flies as high as his wings can carry him. Just like his father warned, as he got closer to the sun the wax on his wings started to melt and he tumbled out of the sky, eventually falling into the sea where he drowned.

The story of Icarus, who flew too close to the sun, is a warning to not put personal ambition before consequence.


What do Icarus tattoos mean?

Icarus tattoos can symbolize many different things, mostly concerning both positive and negative personality traits. Here are some of the most popular meanings:

Uncontrolled ambition

Ambition is an excellent quality, but it needs to be harnessed and controlled. Icarus’ death is the consequence of uncontrolled ambition and his story is a potent symbol of the need for moderation in your life.


Hubris is the trait of being over-confident or having too much self-confidence. Icarus thought he knew more than his knowledgeable father and he dismissed his concerns about flying too close to the sun.

The danger of immediate gratification

Icarus wanted to leave Crete immediately, despite being warned about the dangers of being too impatient.


Youthful impetuousness

Icarus, a young man, dies when he fails to heed his father’s warnings. With more wisdom and experience, Daedalus knew that it was dangerous to fly too close to the sun and the water. Icarus just wanted his freedom and was not willing to enact patience in order to do so safely.


Above all else, Icarus wanted freedom away from his island prison. Unable to practice the patience that his father suggested, he paid the ultimate price. So strong was his desire for freedom that he died in the attempt.


This is an ancient Greek concept about the character of a person who has a sound mind, is calm, moderate, prudent, pure, and has self-control. Icarus, who in no way exhibits these characteristics, paid for his failings with his life.  


Why Do People Choose to get an Icarus tattoo?

There are many reasons why people choose to get an Icarus tattoo. Here are some of the more popular ones:

It is meaningful

If you have experienced a period of emotional or spiritual confinement, Icarus might represent your struggles to free yourself. The beauty of the Icarus tattoo is that it can also represent our all-too-human frailties and failures to thrive as well.

It represents imperfection

Icarus was an imperfect young man and his actions led to his death. He wasn’t malicious or cruel, yet was punished for the qualities that many of us have. No one is perfect, just like Icarus, but we try.

It is an ode to youthfulness

Icarus was an impulsive youth who could not heed his wise father’s warning. Youthful impetuousness, seen in the joy and wonder Icarus experienced when he flew, is a double-edged sword: a source of fun but also danger.


Where do people usually get these tattoos on their bodies?

Icarus tattoos are usually inked in fine detail, highlighting the musculature of Icarus’ body and the details of the wings’ feathers. For this fine detail to be visible, a large expanse of skin is needed such as the upper arm, thigh, chest, collarbone, and the back.

What are the most popular types of Icarus tattoos?

Icarus is most commonly depicted with outstretched wings as he soars towards the sun. He can also be shown getting ready to fly, and falling into the sea having melted the wax in his wings.  

Is this tattoo right for you?

The Icarus tattoo has many meanings. It is a potent symbol of the dangers that come with complacency and youthful overconfidence. It is also a symbol of the common human foibles that we all experience.

If you recognize these traits in yourself, an Icarus tattoo might be the right one for you.

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