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Love, Hope, and Freedom: A Guide to Dove Tattoo Meanings

Love, Hope, and Freedom: A Guide to Dove Tattoo Meanings

Doves are serene little birds that are prevalent in many cultures and religions throughout history. They are said to be bringers of peace and hope, but most commonly, doves are seen as markers for better days and new beginnings. With this in mind, it is easy to see why dove tattoos have become such a popular request in tattoo parlors around the world.

If you are thinking of getting a dove tattoo, you are most likely a positive and faithful person who believes that love conquers all. But did you know that the meaning of a dove tattoo depends on its design and placement? In this article, we’ll cover everything from the symbolic nature of doves and their rich mythologies to the most common dove tattoos and placements.

What Do Doves Symbolize?

Doves may be small birds, but they have huge reputations. There are many symbolic meanings tied to these social and adaptable birds, most of which have to do with their character traits, behaviors, and religious undertones.

If you are considering getting a dove tattoo, you may want to study what these birds symbolize to ensure that you are in alignment with their message. Although doves may symbolize the following, these little birds can represent whatever you want them to.

Everlasting Love and Devotion

Doves symbolize everlasting love, partnerships, and monogamous relationships. This is because, in nature, most dove species will mate for life and go on to raise many fledglings together.

Doves are ritually released during wedding ceremonies to bless newlyweds with promises of harmony, purity, and never-ending companionship. However, doves can also symbolize the everlasting love and devotion between parents and children, family members, and friends.

New Beginnings and Freedom

Doves can be set free at both weddings and funerals. However, when they are released during funerals, they often symbolize new beginnings and rebirth instead of everlasting love and devotion. They are a reminder that new and prosperous beginnings are never out of reach.

Doves also symbolize the need to spread your wings and fly away. They are the embodiment of a free spirit. In Native American mythology, loved ones are said to take the form of a dove once they pass away. In other branches of Native American mythology, however, these birds have the task of accompanying souls to the afterlife.

Hope and Peace

In the Biblical story of Noah’s Ark, Noah sent out a white dove to locate dry land following the Great Flood. The dove would return carrying an olive branch, proving that there was dry land somewhere in the distance. Since then, doves have been seen as beacons of hope and bringers of peace.

Victory and Prosperity

Doves are viewed as peaceful birds who bring forth prosperity with every wing flap. They have been used to depict the end of troubling times, like war or famine. They symbolize victory and abundance, both financially and emotionally.

This all stems from the story of Noah’s Ark and the return of the dove. The dove’s olive branch confirmed that Noah’s mission had been accomplished and that it was time for prosperous new beginnings.

Messenger of God

Throughout history, there are many tales of doves delivering messages of peace, love, and victory. Due to their strong connotations to the Christian faith, doves are also seen as the messengers of God.

Whereas a crow is reputed as a messenger of death, a dove is viewed as a messenger of positivity. When a dove delivers a message, it is slated to be life-changing in the most beautiful of ways.


In the Islamic faith, doves are respected and adored for their protective qualities. It is said that a pair of doves assisted Muhammad, the final prophet of Islam, by shielding him from his enemies.

To escape his enemies, Muhammad sought refuge in a cave. As he did this, a pair of doves built a nest and laid eggs near the cave’s entrance. Seeing this, Muhammad’s enemies concluded that the cave was empty and did not enter it.

Different Dove Tattoos and Their Meanings

For millennia, doves have been depicted in poems, paintings, and artworks due to their religious backgrounds and rich symbolism. Today, they are still held in high regard amongst many different cultures. So much so that doves have become a popular tattoo choice amongst both men and women.

You can design your dove tattoo, giving it the personal meaning of your choice. Or, you can choose to customize an existing dove tattoo design to your liking. But keep in mind that everything from the number of doves to their accompanied objects can alter the meaning.

You’ll find some of the most common dove tattoos and their meanings below.

Two or More Doves

Doves are special birds for more reasons than one. First of all, they mate for life and co-parent their babies until they’re ready to leave the nest. Secondly, both male and female doves produce crop milk for their offspring, a rare occurrence in bird species.

Doves symbolize motherhood and fertility in many cultures. If you’re looking for a tattoo that you can dedicate to your children, one with multiple doves is a great choice. This tattoo symbolizes the everlasting bond that parents share with their children.

Parenthood aside, a tattoo with three doves can also be symbolic of the Christian faith. A gathering of three doves can represent The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit.

A Pair of Dove Wings

Like angel wing tattoos, dove wing tattoos are often used to pay homage to a loved one who has passed away. In many cultures, doves symbolize the end of a chapter and the beginning of something new.

If the purpose of your tattoo is to honor the life of someone you loved, a pair of dove wings is a beautiful way to keep their memory alive. You can customize this tattoo by adding your loved one’s name or initials.

A Dove and a Heart

Another common dove tattoo is one of a dove and a heart. You may consider this combination if you’d like to dedicate your tattoo to your children, friends, or partner. Or, you may choose to get a dove and a heart tattooed on you because you believe that love is the most important thing of all.

A Cherub and a Dove

Although a dove and a heart tattoo can demonstrate many different forms of love, nothing says romantic love like a cherub and dove tattoo. Combined, doves and cherubs take on the presence of Saint Valentine and Cupid. If you’d like to dedicate your tattoo to your husband, wife, or partner, a cherub and dove tattoo will speak volumes.

A Dove and a Cage

Another popular dove tattoo is the one of a dove flying out of a cage. This tattoo represents freedom and the courage it takes to spread your wings and step out of your comfort zone. Those who seek out this tattoo may have gone through difficult times in which they felt trapped or controlled. This beautiful tattoo combination showcases one’s spiritual growth and undying belief in better days.

A Dove and an Olive Branch

Dove and olive branch tattoos are also very popular. Although typically seen as religious symbols, a dove and olive branch tattoo can strictly express hope and the promise of better days. This powerful tattoo can symbolize your readiness to put the past behind you and your excitement to begin anew.

A Dove and Praying Hands

Dove tattoos have a deep correlation to Christianity, especially when accompanied by a pair of praying hands or a cross. This tattoo demonstrates a believer’s unwavering faith, as well as the divinity of Jesus Christ.

A Dove and a Skull

If you’re looking for a tattoo that can represent both life and death, the combination of a dove and skull tattoo is a great choice. Doves symbolize life and rebirth, whereas skulls symbolize death. This tattoo can indicate the circle of life and its repetition.

A Dove and a Grenade

A dove and grenade tattoo may seem like an odd pairing at first, but this tattoo seeks to establish the balance between peace and war. This tattoo symbolizes the union of two extremes. To know peace, we must sometimes experience difficult times, and those who seek out this unlikely combination may have experienced both sides of the coin.

Dove Tattoo Placements and What They Mean

The placement of your dove tattoo can add to its significance, but it’s best to choose a location that you’re comfortable with. Ultimately, you’re the one who gets to decide what your tattoo means, no matter where it is situated on your body. However, if you’d like to take your tattoo’s significance to a new level, you may consider placing it over the following body parts.

Over the Heart or Chest

Commonly, men choose to place dove tattoos over their hearts or chests. However, this placement holds the same meaning for women, too. When you tattoo a dove over your heart or sternum, you’re telling the world that you hold your spiritual or religious beliefs close to your heart.

With this in mind, it’s also a suitable placement for tattoos meant to honor your family or a loved one who has recently passed.

Behind the Ear

In Christianity, doves are said to be the messengers of God. They bring forth positive messages that can change your life for the better. When you get a dove tattoo behind your ear, you’re opening up communication pathways with God.

If you view the dove as your spirit animal or guide, this placement can also indicate that you are ready to hear their whispers of guidance.

Ankle or Foot

In many cultures, doves represent prosperous new beginnings. If you’re ready to put your best foot forward, you may consider getting a dove tattoo on your ankle or foot.

Hand or Wrist

Another popular placement for dove tattoos is the wrists and forearms. If you’d like your dove tattoo to symbolize unconditional love, selecting your inner wrist or hand as a resting spot is a fantastic choice. This is because getting a dove tattooed onto your wrist commands you to wear your heart on your sleeve. Anytime you reach your hand out, you’ll be reminded to lead with love and compassion.

Back or Shoulder

If you’d like to show your devotion and faithfulness to your family, children, or friends, you can choose to tattoo a dove onto your back or shoulder. When we feel responsible for someone or something, we usually carry that weight on our backs and shoulders. This placement proves that you will dedicate your life and purpose to whatever your dove tattoo symbolizes.

Getting a Dove Tattoo

dove flying out of hands

Sometimes, we get tattoos in the spur of the moment, and other times, we put a lot of time and effort into crafting up a personal ink project. In the end, what’s important is that you select a tattoo that you’ll be able to resonate with for many years to come. If you’re interested in getting a dove tattoo, know that you don’t need to be spiritual or religious to do so.

Although doves have strong links to spirituality and religion, they cannot be pigeonholed to these beliefs alone. In other words, a dove tattoo can mean anything you want it to. What’s most important is that you find a reputable tattoo parlor along with a tattoo artist who can make your vision come to life.

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