200+ Powerful Lion Tattoo Ideas With Meanings and History

lion tattoo guide

If there’s one tattoo to rule them all, it’s – you’ve guessed it right – it’s the lion tattoo.

Lion is one of the favorite symbols of leadership, warriors and emperors.

For that reason, many regents have been including it on their heraldry like flags, coats of arms, stamps, and similar to symbolize supreme strength.

In today’s world, the lion is often associated with fearlessness, ferociousness, protection, lion king, Zodiac sign and it’s qualities and the Judaic symbol Lion of Judah.

The lion has many valuable lessons to teach us and these lessons remain the symbols that they are associated with: self control, personal strength and courage and balance.

The lion has captured imagination of human beings for many centuries as a sign of majesty. No wonder it’s a common lion tattoo drawing staple, since traditional tattoos in the mid 20th century, all the way to nowadays.

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Every Tattoo Has A Story – Lion Tattoo Meaning

The lion is an overwhelmingly positive symbol in many cultures around the world.

Usually this powerful animal is depicted with the male lion head  surrounded by a mighty mane.

The lion has been widely used in paintings, sculptures, literature, on national flags, and in present-day films and literature. MGM lion rings a bell?

Unlike wolves, lions are actually known for attacks on humans. Nonetheless, the meanings it has in mythology, heraldry and pop culture has always been positive across various cultures.

The positive portrayal has usually focused on the lion being a strong but a noble beast.

Commonly referred to as the “king of jungle” or “king of beasts” (except in the Asia, where the tiger holds that title).

That said, they have been a popular symbol of royalty and stateliness, as well as a symbol of bravery.

Common traits associated with lions are:

  • Wisdom
  • Power
  • Royalty
  • Dignity
  • Courage
  • Justice
  • Ferocity
  • Dominion
  • Authority

“Lion” was also adopted as the nickname by numerous medieval rulers who had a reputation of great warriors, such as Henry the Lion.

Being this symbol of strength, bravery, dignity, majesty and royalty, lions took in many cultures the role of the guardian, next to animals with similar traits such as bears and wolves.

In ancient China, it was believed that lions protected from evil spirits.

Another mythological creature inspired by the lion was the griffin. Griffins had a lion’s body with the head and the wings of an eagle and were used as well as guardian symbols.

Other messages the lion shares with us:

  • Hold your head high – even in times of conflict – conduct yourself with dignity
  • Stand tall, remember your birthright of power
  • Perhaps it’s time to show your authority (not in a dominating way) but lead others with a loving heart
  • It may be time to defend something that is dear to your heart – defend it fiercely if you must.
  • Have courage, have faith.

Kingdom of Judah and The Lion Emblem

Lion is also the biblical emblem of the tribe of Judah and later the Kingdom of Judah.

The Lion of Judah is a Jewish national and cultural symbol, traditionally regarded as the symbol of the Israelite tribe of Judah.

According to the Torah, the tribe consists of the descendants of Judah, the fourth son of Jacob.

It is contained within Jacob‘s blessing to his fourth son in the penultimate chapter of the Book of Genesis:

“Judah is a lion’s whelp; on prey, my son have you grown. He crouches, lies down like a lion, like the king of beasts—who dare rouse him?” (Genesis 49:9).

Ethiopian History

Ethiopia’s history of Judaism starts from a retinue of Israelites who returned with Makeda, the Queen of Sheba from her visit to King Solomon in Jerusalem.

With him, Makeda had a son Menelik, who later on became the first in line of the the Solomonic dynasty’s.

As Solomon was of the tribe of Judah, his son Menelik I would continue the line, which meant the Lion of Judah myth also continued there.

Rastafari Movement

The Lion of Judah is a prominent symbol in the Rastafari movement, too.
It is a symbol of strength, kingship, pride and African sovereignty.

Also, Rastafari consider the mention of “The Lion of Judah” in Genesis 49:9 and Revelation 5:5 of The Bible to refer to Emperor Haile Selassie I.

Lion in Christianity

The Lion and the Lamb are two images and names for God used in Scripture that describe aspects of Jesus Christ. The attributes of Jesus are as powerful and majestic as a lion and innocent as a sacrificial lamb.

Jesus Christ, as the Lion, conquered sin and death so that we could share in the glory of his eternal kingdom. This victory was made possible through his work on the cross, in which he stepped in as the innocent Lamb to be sacrificed for our sin once and for all.

Therefore, in the Lion we discover the power of Christ as an eternal king, and in the Lamb we find the grace of Jesus as an eternal savior.

Lions of Fu – The Chinese Buddha Symbol

The Lions of Fu are two statues that we can see in some traditional Chinese buildings, such as the Forbidden City of Beijing.

These lions, sometimes even represented as dogs, are the Historical Buddha himself – Siddhartha Gotama.

We can correlate this to the symbol of Jesus being the cross in the Western culture.

The word “Fu” means “blessing” in Chinese. That said, these lions are literally the “Chinese prosperity lions”.

The symbolism of the lion started with this animal being the ancient symbol of family. With time, having Buddha depicted sitting on the back of a lion, it has changed to the protector and blessing of the house it was sitting in front of.

The two Buddha lions were used for this purpose from the Han dynasty to the end of the Chinese Empire.

There are always two Fu Lions in front of the entrance to the buildings. The reason for this is that the one represents a male and the other the female. Together they represent balance, an opposite to one another, all alluding to the philosophy of Yin and Yang

This is a perfect example of the coexistence of two philosophical thoughts in a single country: Buddhist and Taoist thought, since Yin and Yang is the symbol of Taoism.

Zodiac Symbol of Lion

Leos are born between July 23 and August 22, while the Chinese zodiac symbol for Leo is the Monkey.

As a Western zodiac symbol, Leos are considered as passionate and fierce sun signs, and gives these traits as a moon sign to other sun signs, too.

All those with the zodiac sign of Leo likely have some lion’s personality traits such as:

  • Fiery
  • Loyalty
  • Passionate
  • Intuition
  • Generosity
  • Territorial
  • Controlling
  • Self-confidence

Many Leos are considered to be incredibly independent, confident and all around in control of their lives.

The strength that Leos possesses gives them a strong influence and internal power to make positive as well as negative changes in the both their and other people’s lives.

As the lion has the protective side to itself, Leos as well are very loyal and will defend their loved ones to death. They are very committed to family and community.

Given all of this, it’s interesting how Leos change over the years.

In older age, Leos are known to become more mellow in comparison to their initial strength and seriousness.

They also become more playful and easy-going.

Another trait consistently connected to Leos is pride. This can also be interpreted as Leo’s strong sense of identity within a group like family, friends network, work group, etc.

When it comes to Leo zodiac tattoos, it’s usually paired with its star constellation or with the moon tattoos.

Best Lion Tattoo Placements

If you go through the internet and search for a lion tattoo, you will mostly find various options of a lion arm tattoo for both women and men.

However, when it comes to men’s tattoo designs, you can commonly see a bestial lion tattoo on the chest – full chest or just on one side.

The most versatile placement for almost all tattoo designs is if you get a lion tattoo on the forearm – it gives you a lot of flexibility in terms of size, from small to medium lion tattoo.

One placement that was popularized by the famous model. Cara Delevingne lion tattoo has been a viral example of a small lion tattoo.

Many tattoo artists, though, do not recommend such realism on fingers due to extensive movement of the joints which will ultimately ruin the ink.

One very gender fluid option is a lion shoulder tattoo, as it’s common among all tattoo lovers. It’s also visible, but still can be covered easily with a shirt.

This powerful animal goes well with many tattoo styles, watercolor tattoos and geometric tattoos being some of them.

Lion Tattoo Ideas

To help you with your research for your next tattoo design, we went on a hunt through Instagram to find the best lion tattoo ideas.

Take a look below to check them out all:

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Our expert tattoo artists will provide a quick initial draft to get you going.
Happy inking ❤

Milena Petrovic

Milena Petrovic

Co-founder of Tattoo Stylist

About the author

Milena has decided to start an organization that will create a safe environment for everybody to get their first, second or third tattoo and to encourage young people to transform their ideas into tattoos safely, with talent and vision.

You can find her writing about tattoos on Quora or updating our Pinterest profile with awesome tattoo ideas!