Spider Web Tattoo Meaning

People get tattoos for many reasons. Often the designs chosen have some significance for the person getting the tattoo. Tattoos have delved into the realm of symbolism quite extensively. Spider web tattoos are relatively common. Are they just pleasing artwork, or do they have a special meaning?

Spider web tattoos may indicate that the individual has been in prison or has racist views. In modern culture, the spider web may be combined with other images to show creativity, overcoming a struggle, sensitivity, or longing for home. Intimidation and fear are alternative meanings.

Spider webs cannot be split from their creators, namely spiders. As a result, spiders are part of the symbolic meaning assigned to spider webs.

What Was The Meaning Of The First Spider Web Tattoos?

Tattoos were initially used in western culture by sailors in the seventeen hundreds. Spider web tattoos became a popular tattoo with a specific meaning. The sailors used the tattoo to indicate a longing for home and the long wait until their voyage ended when they could finally be home with their families.

Someone who chooses to have a spider web tattoo in this modern era may also select it if they are separated from their family. Migrant workers, students studying away from home, soldiers, and marines may choose a spiderweb to indicate that they are waiting to see their loved ones.

Another meaning assigned to spider web tattoos in early eras was that the individual lived an adventurous life, often away from home.

What Is The Symbolism Of Spider Web Tattoos On Prisoners?

During the 1930s, there was a marked increase in tattoos in American and European prisons. By the  1960s and 1970s, tattoos had become part of prison culture.

Prison gangs ruled jail society and many times governed the use of tattoos. During this time, a spider web tattoo symbolized having been in prison.

Sometimes the size of the web and the number of rings represented the number of years that the prisoner served. Popular locations for the spider web were on the elbow and the neck. Occasionally the spider web was tattooed around the knee or ankle. 

Violent criminals sometimes used the spider web tattoo, particularly on the neck, to intimidate and warn other prisoners.

An exceptionally dark association of the spider web tattoo is with white supremacist gangs in prison. These gangs only allowed prisoners who had killed someone from a minority group to have a spider web tattoo.

The spider web was tattooed around the elbow, with the joint being the center of the web. This symbolized the inmate’s loyalty and firm ties to the racist gang.

Unfortunately, prisoners who desired to be seen as worthy of these gangs were spurred on to kill a non-white inmate. It was prescribed as a rite of passage or initiation into the gang.

In some places of the world and certain cultures, having a spider web tattoo still indicates that the person has been in jail. There is also still a strong association with racism in some quarters. People with these tattoos may find it difficult to find jobs in these spheres.

What Are Modern Day Meanings For Spider Web Tattoos

As tattoos have become more mainstream, the symbolism attached to the tattoo graphic has also changed. Spider webs have become a popular image for people wanting a tattoo.

Spider webs indicate that someone has faced a lengthy trial or suffering and persevered through it. It acts as a proclamation of victory over the difficulties faced by the individual.

Do Spider Webs Indicate Fear?

Spider webs may also symbolize fear as they are closely associated with spiders. Some arachnophobic people tattoo spider webs to show that they are trying to overcome their fear. For other arachnophobes, this might be their worst nightmare.

There is still an intimidation factor in getting a spider web tattoo. There is often a dark intent when it is combined with a spider, particularly a black widow spider. The male black widow spider is devoured by the female spider after mating has occurred.

The combination of the black widow and spider web tattoos refers to death, evil, and power. A spider web tattoo combined with a skull, grave, or vampire portrays a similar meaning. Generally, the aim is to warn and intimidate others or project a menacing personal image.

Other people may use the combination of the black widow spider and the spider web to indicate that they have had a near-death experience.

What Do Spider Webs Combined With Flowers Or Hearts Mean?

Spider webs combined with hearts, flowers, or butterflies have more positive symbolism. Spiders are industrious, creative creatures that create unique artworks when they spin a web.

Many people view the spider web tattoo as an indication of creativity and passion. When people intend to convey this meaning, they often combine it with a colorful butterfly or flower.

When combined with a butterfly, a spider web tattoo may symbolize a long struggle followed by rebirth or emergence. The butterfly provides the link to renewal through its life cycle when a caterpillar pupates and becomes a butterfly.

A heart combined with a spider web tattoo could indicate that the heart or love is where that person’s home is. Some people choose to have a name tattooed on the heart. The heart typically has a central placement in the spider web when this meaning is selected.

Another meaning conveyed by a spider web combined with a heart, diamond, star, or flower could indicate emotional sensitivity or the frailty of life and love.  

Do Spider Web Tattoos Indicate Someone Who Likes Spiders?

There has been a growing fascination in keeping spiders as pets in the modern world. Tarantulas are one of the most popular spiders to keep due to their size and often spectacular coloring.

A person that loves spiders may choose to have a spider web tattooed on part of their body. This is often combined with an image of a spider. These individuals will usually choose a spider species with special meaning to them.


Spider web tattoos have come a long way from the sailors who first made them popular. The meaning of spider web tattoos is rich and varied. In modern culture, the spider web tattoo has very individual meanings ascribed by the person who has chosen it. Dark intent and symbolism may still be attached to spider web tattoos in some circles.

Some of my favorite designs, tattoo books, and aftercare products, selected for you

working on tattoo at my studio
Working at the studio on one of my projects

Thank you for reading my article, I hope that you have found it helpful. If you would have trouble finding ideas for your tattoo, wonder what is meaning of design that you have found or what to buy for aftercare, to make sure that your tattoo will be healing quickly and easily, here are some of my favorite products in one place, hope that this will also help.

Design and tattoo ideas

For some ideas you can have a look at those 3 books with hundreds of designs that I use with my clients, they are available on Amazon for Kindle or in classic, paper version (links below):

Tattoo meaning

If you would like to read more about the meaning of different tattoo styles and designs before you will decide what you would like to have, I can recommend a book that was really useful for me when I was starting my tattoo adventure – it’s “Conscious Ink: The Hidden Meaning of Tattoos” by Lisa Barretta (through the link you can find it on Amazon for around $10).

Tattoo aftercare

The skin at the tattoo site often dries out. To prevent it and speed up healing for my clients, I usually recommend one of those tattoo aftercare balms (you can find them on Amazon):


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