9 Common Marine Tattoos and What They Mean

The United States Marine Corps is one of the most elite fighting forces on the planet, and they often literally wear their pride on their skin. Marine Corps tattoos exemplify the qualities that make the organization a respected part of the United States military. From mottos to logos, hundreds of years of history are written in ink, thanks to Marine tattoos.

Marines often have their official motto, Semper Fi, tattooed on their bodies, usually in the back or shoulder area. Many sayings, rank insignia, and traditional symbols can be found on their arms and lower legs. Sometimes, however, you may get a daring soldier who gets a huge tattoo on their side. Only a seasoned warrior could put up with the type of pain caused by going under the needle for a big piece of body art!

Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

  • The Eagle

    An eagle, perched on a globe in front of an anchor, is the insignia of the United States Marine Corps. It's been part of the Marines' uniforms since 1868 and became the official symbol of the Corps in 1955.

    The eagle represents the United States, ever vigilant over the world. The anchor represents the Marines' ties to the U.S. Navy. Enlisted men use an all-gold version of the symbol, while the officers' symbol is silver and gold.

  • The Bulldog

    Considered by the Corps to be courageous and the strongest of dogs, the bulldog represents the qualities most desired in the field. Many bulldog tattoos show the dog dressed as a drill sergeant, which is a sign of aggression and authority.

  • Semper Fi

    "Semper Fidelis" is the official motto of the United States Marine Corps. In Latin, it means "always faithful." It was officially adopted as the motto in 1883, though most Marines tend to shorten the phrase to "Semper Fi."

  • Rank Insignia

    Many Marines choose to display their rank as a tattoo. In the case of the picture above, the patch with the chevrons represents the rank of sergeant.

  • The Sword

    The oldest weapon still in service in the Marine Corps is the sword; more specifically, it's the Marine saber that you see with their dress uniforms. While it isn't used in combat, the Marines carry a sword for ceremonial purposes to remind them of their past as an organization. Officers carry the Mameluke sword, which was given to Lieutenant Presley O'Bannon in 1805 by Prince Hamet of the Ottoman Empire.

  • Death Before Dishonor

    Honor and duty are a big deal in the armed forces. The Marine Corps places a high premium on integrity, and thus one of its mottos is "Death Before Dishonor." The point is that you will uphold your beliefs and obligations to family, friends, and country before sacrificing them to save yourself.