Sextant tattoo meaning and symbolism

Most sextant tattoos are done in the traditional nautical style, often combined with other elements like maps, compasses, hourglasses…etc. Sometimes stylized versions of them are used as well. This type of symbolism is often associated with deep meanings and lots of people are wondering what it really means.

sextan arm tattoo
sextant arm tattoo @ d_o_w_e_y_

The history of sextans

First of all, let’s go through the history. Sextants have been used since the 1700s to determine a ship’s location by measuring angles between stars, sun or landmarks and then computing the vessel’s position. Since that time they’ve become an indispensable instrument for marine navigation, but this wasn’t always the case.

In the Middle Ages, navigators used a simple astrolabe to calculate their latitude by measuring the angle of a shadow cast by the Sun or stars at different latitudes.

This specification was later standardized for celestial navigation on an international level in order to create universal standards that allowed sailors from all over the world to understand each other.

The marine sextant was created in order to improve the astrolabe and allow sailors to navigate more efficiently, avoid disasters and travel further distances with greater accuracy. It became necessary because ships started traveling across vast oceans and it was getting harder and harder to calculate their latitude using just an astrolabe.

Sextant, made by Jesse Ramsden, last quarter of 18th century. The sextant became the symbol of navigation. The instrument is named for its scale—60 degrees or 1/6th of a circle—and can measure even greater angles than the octant. timeandnavigation

So, what’s the meaning behind sextant tattoos?

The traditional nautical tattoos that incorporate a sextant as an element are often associated with the sea and everything that relates to it. Since it is such an important device for those who live on the water, those tattoos could be seen as a mark of honor.

People sporting sextant tattoos could also have been part sailors or navigators at some point in their lives. Since a sextant tattoo is often associated with the sea, it could also represent a sense of belonging to it and being part of something bigger.

During the Golden Age of Piracy, it was common for sailors to get tattoos in order to protect themselves against dangers or bad luck at sea. According to some legends, a tattoo would also help sailors find their path back home when they became lost at sea.

There are many stories about people getting sextant tattoos and then taking trips around the world in order to complete their bucket list. Others got them when they retired in order to show how much they’ve achieved during their lifetime and let other people know about it through their tattoos.

These tattoos are also often combined with compasses, hourglasses or skulls, which only further emphasizes the symbolism behind them.

What other symbolism is often associated with sextant tattoos?

There are also several other meanings that can be associated to a sextant tattoo, such as:

– Finding your way back home.

– Navigating into the unknown in order to gain new experiences and grow spiritually.

– Having experienced something that changed your life forever, be it a trip, an important moment or meeting someone special.

– Stamina, strength and the power to overcome any challenges in order for you to achieve your goals.

Sextant tattoo examples

Most traditional sextant tattoos are usually done with black ink on the forearm or biceps since it is very easy to hide them if necessary.

All in all, a sextant tattoo is a very cool way to show your love for nautical tattoos and indicate that you’re a sea lover at heart. If the traditional one doesn’t suit your tastes, why not try combining it with several elements from other nautical tattoos? You can always make it your own by adding a few personal elements.

However, they can be done anywhere on the body and there are a couple of examples below:

sextant leg tattoo
sextant leg tattoo @ evatattooing
sextant leg tattoo
sextant leg tattoo @ hemi_tattoo


Getting a sextant tattoo doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be a sailor or navigator at some point in your life.

However, those who are will definitely see it as an honor, and those who aren’t should consider the meanings behind that type of tattoo and what it could mean for them.

Sextant tattoos combine several types of symbolism, each with its own meanings and interpretations, but they are always associated with the sea.