The anchor is one of a handful of symbols in the tattoo world which has remained both popular and true to its origins for the better part of two centuries, and has even more ancient symbolic roots going back several millennia.
The anchor tattoo is a a symbol that is often incorporated with other design elements and is a central nautical design theme of many military service tattoos, particularly those tattoos found among sailors, marines and naval aviators. Other common design elements found with anchors are sailing ships, mermaids and other nautical symbols.
In Maritime lore, the tattooed anchor showed that a seaman had sailed across the Atlantic Ocean. In ancient times among Mediterranean seafarers, the anchor symbolized the sea gods. In early Christianity, the anchor (with horizontal tie bar under the ring) was used as a covert symbol by virtue of its resemblance to a cross. An anchor tattoo can be thought of as holding one steadfast, like an anchor holding a great sailing ship safe in harbor, against winds and currents that might carry it astray.