John Wick’s tattoos may be the keys to unlocking his backstory – they could indicate military service, religious affiliations, ties to the mob, and more.
As a tattoo artist, anytime I watch a movie, I’m always analyzing the tattoos in it and John Wick was no exception. I have to admit that these tattoos bothered me a little as they were shown so briefly and they could be interpreted in many different ways!
In this post, I’ll go over each potential John Wick tattoo meaning and show you how they may provide more insight into the main character.
Here is a breakdown of John Wick’s tattoos in that shower scene and their implied meanings. It is important to understand that neither the writers or directors of the movies have given much explanation for the tattoos. So, much of this is research and guesswork:
Its sheer size and prominence make this back tattoo the most prominent ink of John Wick’s tattoos. Many people also believe that it offers some insight into John Wick’s backstory.
If you have watched the John Wick movies, then you know that not a lot is revealed about his life or history. The Fortis Fortuna Adiuvat tattoo offers some clues, though.
The Latin phrase Fortis Fortuna Adiuvat loosely translates to fortune favors the bold. However, some also refer to it as fortune favors the brave.
Sure, this is a pretty common saying, but what many people don’t realize is that this Latin phrase is similar to the motto of the 2nd Battalion 3rd Marines.
The presence of the Fortis Fortuna Adiuvat could hint that he used to be a Marine Corps vet. This isn’t such a leap, considering what an amazing fighter he is and how good he is at hand-to-hand combat.
What is also interesting is that fortis is a neutral plural noun. This refers to a group of people. So, Wick’s tattoo could indicate that he once worked with a group of people.
Considering what Parabellum described, it’s clear that Wick was part of a family unit of sorts and this tattoo could refer to it.
Of course, the Fortis Fortuna Aduivat could have a completely different meaning to that of military service, if you want to play devils’ advocate. There are a few ways this tattoo can be translated apart from what is used in the Marine Corps.
While fortune favors the bold is the most common one, some also feel like this phrase translates to only the strong ones, fortune favors. This is a bit of a twist on the original fortune favors the bold.
This could mean that John Wick believes that only the strong are worthy of fortune. It could be another nod to his upbringing. He was taught how to be quick, fast, and tough. He was also trained to be one of the best assassins in the world and an eventual employee in the High Table.
It could also be a reminder to John Wick to always be strong at all times. His previous job was quite brutal and he needed to be tough to survive.
It could be a nod toward the Roman goddess Fortuna instead.
The most notable thing about this Roman goddess is that she deals out luck without discrimination. Sometimes, the luck goes your way and in other instances, it doesn’t.
It’s quite likely that John Wick is not a man who believes in luck. Instead, he may believe that he’s in sole charge of his fortune. As such, his actions will produce consequences and they must be dealt with.
This could be a nod to the plot line of the first movie. After all, the events of the movie are triggered when a thoughtless young man kills John Wick’s dog and steals his car.
Wick’s resulting actions are the consequences that the people shielding him have to face.
Image by @artbythegods via Instagram
The tattoo on John Wick’s left shoulder isn’t very clear, but many people have assumed that it is the Devil Dog tattoo. This could be another hint that Wick was a Marine Corps vet.
This was a nickname given to the US Marines by the Germans in World War I. The Marines were sent to take over a hill occupied by Germans.
The soldiers had to wear masks to protect themselves from mustard gas attacks. The masks caused the soldiers to foam at the mouth and have bloodshot eyes. What’s more, at one point the soldiers had to climb on all fours to get up the mountain.
This caused the Germans to call them the dogs of hell. This stuck as a nickname for the Marines.
Of course, this could also be a reminder to Wick to fight like a hound of hell.
Of all the John Wick tattoos, this is arguably one of the most noticeable as it takes up a significant amount of space on his back.
It should come as no surprise to learn that there is some debate over this John Wick back tattoo as well. Once again, this is because there is so much mystery about John Wick himself. His history and story are only revealed to the audience in bits and pieces.
Some people believe that the praying hands tattoo is based on a pen and ink drawing done by an artist known as Albrecht Dürer. This 16th century drawing is fairly well-known.
Now, as the name suggests, the praying hands can be seen as just that – hands folded in prayer. This could indicate that John Wick has some religious allegiance.
Image by @marked4lifetattoosparis via Instagram
On the one hand, it could mean that John Wick is – or was – a man of faith. Or, it could mean that his past life had ties to the church.
In the second movie, there is a deleted scene where John Wick goes to ask the Pope for permission to carry out his killing spree. This is an indication that Wick and the Roman Catholic Church have had a long history.
Of course, this could indicate business dealings created through the High Table and doesn’t necessarily mean that John Wick is religious.
The other meaning of this John Wick’s tattoo is that he sees himself as a fallen angel. While John Wick is portrayed as an anti-hero, he is fully aware that his previous life of crime and his work for the High Table was far from good, which is why he gave it up when he met his wife.
His tattoo could be an admittance that, to a certain degree, he chose the path he was on and is seeking understanding from a higher power.
At the same time, this tattoo could also indicate that John Wick wants to repent for his actions and work for the High Table. There is no way of knowing how old this tattoo is. So, it is quite likely that he got it towards the end of his career.
In this case, it could be a way of asking forgiveness for everything he did in his past. It could also have been a way to wipe the slate clean before starting a new life with the woman he loved.
On his left shoulder, there is a cross tattoo, although it is not very visible. It’s possible that this is more proof that John Wick is – or was – a religious man.
However, if you watch Parabellum, you will notice that the characters from his past also had cross tattoos; some on their shoulders. So, this could indicate John Wick’s ties to his old family and their life of crime.
It could also be a way of showing that he was part of a particular group.
There is some evidence that of all John Wick’s tattoos, this one could mean that he spent some time in a Russian prison.
Image by @gi_tattoos via Instagram
This tattoo is similar to those known as oskals, which are common in Russian prisons. This translates to big grin. It indicates that they’re aggressive or hostile towards authority figures.
Since it’s apparent that Wick had ties to the Russian mob, the fact that he spent time in prison wouldn’t be too surprising.
At the same time, this tattoo could have a different meaning. It could mean that Wick once saw himself as a part of a pack, working as a group in his old line of work.
At the same time, it could also mean that he sees himself as a lone wolf. This could be a nod to his retirement or that he chose to seclude himself from a particular criminal element.
If you watch the movies closely, you will notice that many of the characters in the John Wick universe have tattoos.
In this way, these tattoos are different from the usual. The tattoos on Wick could also indicate that he is separate from most of society, as he leads a life that most people would never dream of.
This should be a good starting point for you to understand John Wick a little better and gain some insight into his mysterious past.