Tattoo Meanings Designs & Symbols

Tattoo Symbol Index - A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Tattoo designs - P >> Penguin

Penguin tattoo meaningsPenguin Tattoo Meanings - Penguins don't have much experience with humans, so it's not surprising that we don't have much experience with them. The Antarctic, was after all, except for penguins, seals and a few other sea birds, a bitterly cold, utterly inhospitable environment for human habitation. But underneath the ice shelf of the Antarctic is an incredibly rich sea environment teaming with life and extraordinary bio-diversity and a magnet for whales and other marine creatures who are drawn to the rich feeding grounds for krill and other food sources. For this reason, penguins aren't well established in folklore or in the international lexicon of symbols. Other than a few isolated outposts on the extreme end of South Americas and New Zealand, you have to go to all the way to the Antarctic to find penguins. Whatever the penguin means to you, well, that's what it means to you. The penguin is a symbol more open than most to a very personal interpretation.

For some, the penguin may represent a 'nun'. Or it means 'keeping your cool'. It's a bird in a tuxedo, a 'stuffed-shirt', a waiter, the Maitre 'D. It appears to have impeccable good manners to go along with its dapper good looks. Who doesn't look dashing and debonair in a dinner jacket? The penguin is the James Bond of the bird world. The penguin has been co-opted by Hollywood, recruiting the bird as the hero of animated and highly anthropomorphic films in which the Emperor Penguin has featured in the the starring role.

Opus and Chilly WillyOpus the Penguin was also the star of the Comic Strip 'Opus', drawn by Berkeley Breathed. Opus was Breathed's fourth strip, following The Academia Waltz, Bloom County and Outland. Opus figurines, stuffed toys and memorabilia were very popular. And who can forget that the Penguin was and is, Batman's most feared rival. As a villain, the Penguin offers a counter-point to the Dark Knight. And is the polar opposite of the public's perception of the penguin's personality in popular culture.

Chilly Willy, the animated cartoon penguin who was always cold, first appeared in 1953 courtesy of Walter Lanz. After a slow start the third film was nominated for an Academy Award. Curiously the character lived in Fairbanks, Alaska, although the species is native only to the southern hemisphere.

Emperor penguinsThe animated film "Happy Feet" played up the myth of Antarctic penguins as soul mates ( they are serial monogamists who mate each season), as did the hugely popular documentary, "March of the Penguins", which became an international phenomenon in many different languages, and which won the Oscar for Best Documentary Film at the 2006 Academy Awards. As a consequence, we have come to love and admire the penguin for their ability to court each other and to recognize their mate's unique range of vocalizations, as well as the cries of their chick. We know about the Emperor Penguins' annual migrations - on foot - to mate and feed their young, as they traverse distances of up to a 100 kilometers (62 miles). The penguins endure temperatures that drop to a bone-chilling -62 degrees Celsius (- 80 degrees Fahrenheit) and winds that can reach a staggering 300 kilometers per hour (190 mph). By the tens of thousands, the penguin hordes embark on a treacherous single-file journey across a barren and dangerous world of ice and snow. Solo, the penguin would perish - en masse they survive. Consequently, the penguin has come to symbolize order, purpose, and the magic of family and the importance of community. We find much to admire in their apparent stoicism and unwavering commitment.

Penguin images

We know from these films that the penguin cannot fly, but that its agility in the water makes it seem like it's flying in its liquid element. In fact, it employs much the same musculature to fly through the water as it would through the air. Did you know that the penguin once could fly, but that its flightlessness most likely arose from eons of living on isolated islands where there existed no threats from land predators. A similar evolutionary regression happened to many birds isolated on the islands of New Zealand. The most famous is the Kiwi, but flightless parrots and the legendary Moa, gave up flight when living in an ecosystem with no land predators.

Emperor penguin swimming, Adelie penguin

As a totem animal, the penguin is said to be a reminder of order in times of chaos, of teamwork while hunting under water, of moving in a steady line, inexorably forward on foot through fair weather and foul. The penguin also speaks to the advantages of being able to slip easily from one realm to another. The water realm suggests to dream analysts that those drawn to the penguin are apt to be vivid dreamers.

By getting a penguin tattoo, you are making a statement about your ability to change or adapt to different environments. With a single step - or a belly glide - you can make the leap from hard ground to the constantly shifting seas. Some would say this represents a connection between the physical and the spiritual. At the very least, a penguin attachment reflects an attitude of playfulness. You're saying that there is a time for work and a time for play. And, of course, those with the penguin totem will be a loving spouse and a caring parent. Penguin people perform best when working in a group setting.

The penguin has been described as the 'new canary'. Just as canaries were used to detect gases in a coal mine, today it's the penguin who stands as an indicator of the demise of polar habitats from changes wrought by climate, pollution and commercial fishing. As such, the penguin is also a symbol of environmental consciousness and protection.

The most recognizable penguin in the world is without doubt the one that symbolizes Penguin Books. In 1935, Allen Lane decided that what the world (England) really needed was an affordable paperback sold not just in bookstores, but everywhere. He needed a symbol that was 'dignified but flippant'. His secretary said, 'A penguin.' Penguin's penguin has never looked back.

And while the Penguin book logo may be the world's most recognizable penguin, at least within literary circles, among computer cognoscenti and coding aficionados, the Linux logo "Tux" may just turn out to be the penguin logo of the new millennia.

Tux the Linux penguinLinux is a free Unix-type operating system originally created by Linus Torvalds with the assistance of developers around the world and legions of computer programs have embraced "TUX" the Linux Penguin as the ultimate symbol of geekdom - and we mean that in the nicest possible way!

Open Source is a copyright license genre, (GNU being the major example) that facilitates and in fact enforces the open and free sharing of computer software source code - the human readable text. The concept has been extended to other areas, including house design and lately drug creation and genetic engineering. It embraces a world of open ideas and the sharing of knowledge.

Linux is the epitome of an Open Source project. It has grown from the personal self-education project of Linus Torvalds (who named it, combining his name and the word "Unix" which was the original AT&T operating system it is modeled after) to where it now is synonymous with Open Source software in the minds of most people.

Because Linux is Open Source, people have taken it and made it work on more hardware platforms than any other operating system ever; from single-chip systems the size of a key to the largest and fastest super-computers in the world.

The story behind the Linux Penguin is best told by Linus Torvalds himself;
Somebody had a logo competition announcement, maybe people can send their ideas to a web-site.

Anyway, this one looks like the poor penguin is not really strong enough to hold up the world, and it's going to get squashed. Not a good, positive logo, in that respect..

Now, when you think about penguins, first take a deep calming breath, and then think "cuddly". Take another breath, and think "cute". Go back to "cuddly" for a while (and go on breathing), then think "contented".

With me so far? Good..

Now, with penguins, (cuddly such), "contented" means it has either just gotten laid, or it's stuffed on herring. Take it from me, I'm an expert on penguins, those are really the only two options.

Now, working on that angle, we don't really want to be associated with a randy penguin (well, we do, but it's not politic, so we won't), so we should be looking at the "stuffed to its brim with herring" angle here.

So when you think "penguin", you should be imagining a slightly overweight penguin (*), sitting down after having gorged itself, and having just burped. It's sitting there with a beatific smile - the world is a good place to be when you have just eaten a few gallons of raw fish and you can feel another "burp" coming.

(*) Not FAT, but you should be able to see that it's sitting down because it's really too stuffed to stand up. Think "bean bag" here.

Now, if you have problems associating yourself with something that gets off by eating raw fish, think "chocolate" or something, but you get the idea.

Ok, so we should be thinking of a lovable, cuddly, stuffed penguin sitting down after having gorged itself on herring. Still with me?

NOW comes the hard part. With this image firmly etched on your eyeballs, you then sketch a stylized version of it. Not a lot of detail - just a black brush-type outline (you know the effect you get with a brush where the thickness of the line varies). THAT requires talent. Give people the outline, and they should say [sickly sweet voice, baby talk almost] "Ooh, what a cuddly penguin, I bet he is just stuffed with herring", and small children will jump up and down and scream "mommy mommy, can I have one too?".

Then we can do a larger version with some more detail (maybe leaning against a globe of the world, but I don't think we really want to give any "macho penguin" image here about Atlas or anything). That more detailed version can spank billy-boy to tears for all I care, or play ice-hockey with the FreeBSD demon. But the simple, single penguin would be the logo, and the others would just be that cuddly penguin being used as an actor in some tableau.

Penguin Inspiration Gallery - Click here to get inspired!Some people have told me they don't think a fat penguin really embodies the grace of Linux, which just tells me they have never seen a angry penguin charging at them in excess of 100mph. They'd be a lot more careful about what they say if they had.
-- Linus Torvalds

Get inspired by some really great images and photos in our Penguin Inspiration Gallery

Choose your own penguin tattoo design from
Buy the penguin tattoo design that's perfect for you.

Penguin tattoo design ideas from

Choose your own penguin tattoo design at Tattoo Johnny

Penguin tattoo designs and symbol ideas

Tattoo designs - P >> Penguin

Tattoo Tribe Clothing and products inspired by classic tattoo designs and quotes.

Tattoo Symbol Index - A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Celeb Tattoos | Facts & Stats | Designs & Symbols | History | Culture | Links | Tattoo Galleries | Contact

Copyright © 1999- All rights reserved.