Butterflies are a commonly chosen tattoo design, favored in part because of their striking colors. The meaning of any individual tattoo will vary according to the wearer. In this case, the person could be an entomologist or a butterfly collector. However, certain other themes are common.
Butterfly tattoos often represent freedom and a carefree attitude. Butterflies in nature seldom fly in straight lines, and this is seen as a reflection of their freedom from goal-oriented concerns.
A butterfly tattoo is often seen as particularly feminine, especially when placed near the ankle or above the breast.
Bisexuality and Transgender
The butterfly is sometimes used as a symbol for bisexuality, and also occasionally for transgenderism. The transgender meaning depends on the symbolism of the transformation of the caterpillar to butterfly; for bisexuals, it’s a reclaiming of the stereotype that they can’t settle for just one thing, just as butterflies never settle in one place for too long.
Honoring the Dead
Sometimes butterflies are chosen as a design to honor dead loved ones. The butterfly represents their spirit, released from the confines of the flesh.
A butterfly transforms from an earthbound caterpillar into a showy, flying insect. A butterfly tattoo can symbolize a similar transformation in a person, and may be chosen to reflect her emergence into a new role in life.