Angel Wing Tattoo Design - Meanings and Symbolism

Angel wing tattoos have graced bodies with their symbolism for many decades. Find out their meanings and the different kinds!

By Daina
Angel Wing Tattoo Design - Meanings and Symbolism

Angel Wing Tattoo Designs

Sitting through the process of getting a tattoo is painful and permanent. Therefore, when choosing a tattoo design, it is wise to choose something meaningful to you, something you will definitely never regret. Solidifying remembrance of a passed loved one in a tattoo is certainly something one would not regret. What is the most common tattoo design that does this?


The angel wing tattoo. You may see this idea in many different variations—two wings, a single wing, wings and a cross, wings spread out, wings retreated, wings with lots of details in the feathers, wing silhouettes, wings with added symbols, etc. The angel wings tattoo design memorialize passed loved ones and often accompany other religious or personal symbols.

Beliefs of Afterlife

The belief of an afterlife is one that is shared by many religions. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are just some of the major religions that have a set belief that after life, there is a heaven where deceased are turned to angels to look over their loved ones still on earth. Surveys have even found that

Angels symbolize hope, hope that there is life after death and that our loved ones are truly in a better place. Angels are divine, being the messengers of God. They symbolize strength and protection and guidance, as guardian angels are believed to protect us mortals on earth. These may be all reasons for someone to get an angel wings tattoo--tattoos are permanent and so is the idea of hope and divinity. 


There is a common belief that an angel must earn its wings, by doing good deeds and helping people on earth. However, there is no religious basis for this belief, and religions mostly believe that angels are gifted with wings by God.

Wings and Cross Designs

The cross tattoo design is typically used by Christians, where the cross is the central symbol of the religion. The belief of Catholics is that when a loved one passes, he or she will spend the eternal life with Jesus. The tattoo of wings along with the cross is a deep-rooted religious symbol. As a tattoo, the cross is typically in the middle of the wings, as if the cross itself has wings.

As you can see in this picture of a tattoo, there is a cross symbol within the wings. It is evident the tattoo is in memoriam for a beloved father by the words “Daddy’s Little Girl.” There are other symbols included, such as paw prints, possibly a connection between the person and the father. Cross symbols usually accompany angel wings when a loved one has passed and either the loved one or the person receiving the tattoo is very religious.

Single Wing

Although there isn’t a deeper meaning for single wing tattoo designs, this is a very popular design for women with ink. There are many reasons someone may get a single wing tattoo—less pain, less space needed, more simple.


However, a single wing tattoo could also have a different meaning than angel wings. Many times, people will get a tattoo design of a single wing to differentiate the meaning of angel wings and a bird wing. Although a bird wing tattoo may have a similar meaning, such as being free, angel wings have more of a religious basis to its meaning.

Full-Back Wings

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Some people choose to get a tattoo of angel wings stretched across their back. Most often, this type of angel wings tattoo has a more general meaning rather than the memorialization of a loved one. The wings are typically folded down, meaning the angel is not in flight. The wings are also life-size on the back, making it seem as if the person actually has wings.


A full-back wings tattoo may mean different things—it may symbolize freedom, the person getting wings on their back to fly away from the problems of the mortal life; it may symbolize strength, personifying the person as an angel; or it may symbolize divinity and belief in the afterlife, stating that the person with the tattoo believes when their body is no longer living, their spirit will live on forever.

Before getting this tattoo, consider your tolerance for pain. This is no small tattoo, and no small commitment!

Wings with Other Meaningful Symbols

Oftentimes, the tattoo design of angel wings is accompanied by other meaningful symbols. These could be symbols that also memorialize the loved one. This could be a personal symbol, such as something shared by the living and the deceased, or something more generalized, such as a symbol of nationality or another religious symbol.

This angel wings tattoo, besides being a beautiful tattoo design, has a variety of meaningful symbols. The ribbon in between the wings, although it lacks the purple and turquoise colors, symbolizes suicide awareness. The semi-colon tattoo also symbolizes suicide awareness, which is another popular tattoo design. The semi-colon tattoo has a deep meaning—it means there is more to the story, it is not the end, as a period would symbolize. The meaning behind the semi-colon is to remind the person who has it that their life still continues and should not be cut short by suicide.              


Other than these symbols, a common accompaniment of angel wings is usually a name or initials of a loved one that passed and dates. In the case of this tattoo, initials and a birth year and death year were included in the design, signifying that an individual loved by the person who got the tattoo had committed suicide and there is a deeper meaning of the belief that even a person who takes his or her own life has a chance to be an angel.

Dark Angel Tattoos

Not all angels are innocent and a symbol of heaven. Some people choose to get tattoos of wings that belong to dark angels, or even sometimes an angel of death (grim reaper). A dark angel, as religions describe, is an angel that has been kicked out of heaven, such as the darkest of the angels, Lucifer.


Dark angel tattoos may not have the same symbolism and meaning that other angel wings have. They may be a way for the receiver of the tattoo to show their edgy side, or a belief in a different type of afterlife than the one major religions provide us with, or it's symbolizing that even angels can go bad. The symbol of a dark angel or dark angel wings as a tattoo could symbolize a person’s willpower (as God allowed humans and angels alike to make decisions and choose right from wrong, and those who chose to go against His word were banished and made into dark angels).


An angel of death is different than a dark angel. An angel of death, although shows an edgy side of a person, does not symbolize wrongdoing. The angel of death does God’s work in that it comes to earth to take people to Heaven. A person who gets an angel of death tattoo may show that they are not afraid of the inevitable, and that they, like the angel of death, would like to ensure the safety and eternal happiness of others.

Placement on the Body and Meaning

Where the angel wings tattoo is placed on the body will also say tons about its meaning. Tattoos can be placed virtually anywhere on the body. However, people usually get angel wings on their back, their shoulder blades, or their chest. These placements usually consist of bigger wings. Because of the price and the pain associated with a bigger tattoo, it has become a popular trend to get small, minimalist tattoos. These can be found on the wrist, behind the ear, hips, or the ankle.

The placement of a tattoo could also say novels about the symbolism of the wings. For instance, wings on an ankle could be symbolism for speed or agility, a symbol from the mythological story of Hermes. Wings behind the ear may symbolize guidance—the person listening out for angels to lead the way. Wings on the chest shows openness, meaning the person is open to showing their beliefs and open to the afterlife. Sometimes, the wings are even put over the heart, exhibiting an even deeper meaning.

Are Angel Wings Right For You?

If you’ve lost someone in your life and believe in angels, then yes! Tattoos of angel wings are fitting for anybody that want to memorialize a loved one in a hopeful manner or showcase the symbolism of their love with angel wings. A widow or widower may get wedding rings intertwined alone with the angel wings, a family member may get angel wings to always remember their loved one that passed, or a friend might get angel wings for their beloved confidante with a clever quote or saying. You may choose to load your tattoo up with symbols, or keep it simple and just put angel wings, leaving the meaning open to interpretation.

That is the best part about tattoos. They are art, which can be interpreted in many more ways than just one. An angel wings tattoo to one person is not the same to another.


The placement and type of wing is up to you. If you are looking for detailed wings, be prepared for shading, which is painful (basically, after the outline is done, the shading continuously goes over the same area to reach the desired effect, which feels like a hot knife scraping). Thankfully, if you are getting angel wings, they are meaningful to you and the pain is worth every second of it.


As always, take time to consider the tattoo you are getting. Nothing says “stupid” and “naïve” as someone asking what your tattoo means and you just shrugging and saying “I just liked it” or “I don’t know.” Make sure you are permanently inking your body for a good reason that can be relevant to you no matter what age you are.



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