A Guide To 20 Johnny Depp Tattoos and What They Mean
At one point in time, Johnny Depp was arguably the biggest star on the planet. The American actor, who started his career in 1984 by appearing in the classic horror A Nightmare on Elm Street, was seemingly everywhere in the late 90s and early 00s. His filmography includes the likes of Cry-Baby, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Donnie Brasco, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Chocolat, Public Enemies, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.
Depp was one of the highest-paid actors of all time, winning several big awards, but it all came crashing down when his marriage to Amber Heard ended and the two took shots at each other, both claiming mental and psychical abuse in the relationship. Heard claimed domestic violence was a regular part of their relationship while Depp said he was constantly belittled and made to feel worthless by Heard’s taunts. It all led to a highly publicized trial that saw Heard guilty of defaming Depp, with the two eventually reaching a settlement outside of court.
Virtually blacklisted after information about Deep and Heard came to light, Depp has quietly been making a comeback. He starred in Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty Show Vol 4 and has been playing music with good friend Jeff Beck until his tragic passing in January 2023. As well as resurrecting his career, Depp has acquired several new tattoos during this upheaval in his life. These tatts bring his total to somewhere in the vicinity of 40, with Depp having been regularly inked over the past four decades.
Some of his tattoos have stories behind them while others are quick jobs he got done on the spur of the moment. What they all have in common is that when Depp got them they resonated with him at the time and help tell the journey he has been on throughout his life.
“My body is a journal in a way,” Depp explained in an interview according to Fan Pop. “It’s like what sailors used to do, where every tattoo meant something, a specific time in your life when you make a mark on yourself, whether you do it yourself with a knife or with a professional tattoo artist.”
We want to highlight some of Depp’s best tattoos and the meaning behind them, so read on and discover more about Captain Jack Sparrow’s ink work.
A Guide To 20 Johnny Depp Tattoos and What They Mean
1. Cherokee Tribe Tattoo
The first tattoo Johnny Depp ever got was a Cherokee Tribe tatt on his right arm. He got the tattoo as a way to honor his Native American heritage, as his great-grandmother was Cherokee.
Speaking about the tattoo, Depp explained, “I started getting tattoos when they were sort of verboten in Hollywood… 1983, 1984. I was 17 when I got the first one a Cherokee chief, to honor my Indian heritage.”
2. Betty Sue Tattoo
On his upper left arm, Depp has the name “Betty Sue” inked. This is the name of his mother who passed away on May 20, 2016, after a long illness. Depp actually got the tattoo long before his mother passed in 1988, with the work done by tattoo artist and good friend Jonathan Shaw.
3. “Wino Forever” Tattoo
In the early 90s, Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder were one of the hottest celebrity couples. The two met on the set of Edward Scissorhands and quickly fell in love. Deep was so enamored with Ryder that he got the words “Winona Forever” tattooed on his right shoulder. After their relationship ended he got the tattoo changed to “Wino Forever.”
4. Suprematism Triangle Tattoo
Johnny Deep went for something different on his left shoulder when he got Jonathan Shaw to tattoo a piece of Suprematism art. For those not in the know, Suprematism is an abstract art form that comprises geometric shapes (circles, squares, triangles, etc.) and a limited color palette.
Big in Russia where the movement started, Depp got an upside-down triangle in black accompanied by several other blocks of red and black ink. The tatt is based on Russian artist Ilya Chashnik’s 1925 painting.
5. “Lily-Rose” Tattoo
Say what you want about Johnny Depp, there is no denying he loves his kids. So much so that he got the name of his eldest daughter, Lily-Rose, inked on his left bicep. Regular tattoo artists Jonathan Shaw was the man responsible, with Depp getting the tattoo a few months after Lily-Rose was born to his then partner Vanessa Paradis, on May 27, 1999.
“My daughter made me understand, helped me understand, why there is life and why I should live, and why I wake up in the morning and why I want to continue this funny road I’m on,” Johnny said in an interview with The Philadephia Inquirer.
6. The Brave Tattoo
The Brave was a movie written, directed, and starring Johnny Deep released in 1997. A neo-Western about a man (Depp) who agrees to be killed in a snuff film to provide enough money for his struggling family, the movie was smashed by critics and has been largely forgotten.
The movie must have resonated with Depp though, as he got a tattoo of The Brave symbol that is seen throughout the movie. It’s a strange, egg-like stick figure that can be found on Depp’s inner right arm.
7. Three Rectangles Tattoo
This tattoo is that small you might miss it, but on the index finger of his right hand, Johnny Depp has three black rectangles. They don’t have any meaning and are just another interesting tattoo Depp has inked on his body.
8. The Number 3 Tattoo
Another of Johnny Depp’s small hand tattoos, the number three is inked on his right hand. There are various reports as to why he choose the number. Depp has been quoted as saying the number is special to him while also explaining the tattoo was done out of boredom. Nobody truly knows his fascination with the number three.
9. Question Mark Tattoo
If you ever get a glimpse of Johnny Depp’s right leg you might notice another tiny tattoo. This one is of a question mark with a small cross underneath. This is another Jonathan Shaw special, who got the same tatt on his left knee.
10. Jack Sparrow Tattoo
The character Jack Sparrow is very close to Johnny Depp’s heart. So close in fact that he got a tattoo to celebrate the fictional pirate he plays in the Pirate of the Cararabian movies. The tattoo was inked by Mark Mahoney and is very similar to a tattoo the character sports in the movies. It features a bird flying towards Depp as opposed to away like Captain Jack Spparow’s, and the name of his son, Jack, underneath.
11. Skull and Crossbones Tattoo
Another chest tattoo, this time on the opposite bicep to his “Lily-Rose” ink, the skull and crossbones is another reference to Depp’s Jack Sparrow character.
12. Broken Arrow Tattoo
The broken arrow tatt on Johnny Depp’s left wrist is believed to be his most recent ink. He got the meaningful tattoo after the trial with his ex wife Amber Heard ended. The tattoo was completed at Oslo’s Attitude Tattoo Studio in 2022, with three artists behind the design; Aleksander Stubberud Aas, Jonathan Herrera, and Tomas Kidane.
It’s believed the tattoo took around six hours to complete, with The News International reporting the tattoo signifies “a new start and new hope” after “burying the battle ax.”
13. Three Hearts Tattoo
This tattoo is another tribute to his long-term ex Vanessa Paradis and their children Lily-Rose Depp and Jack Depp. It’s three red hearts in a row, with each one representing a member of his family.
14. “Silence, Exile, Cunning” Tattoo
On Johnny Depp’s left forearm are the words “Silence, Exile, Cunning.” This short phrase is taken from the James Joyce book A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. The phrase inspired a range of t-shirts from the Hollywood brand Beverly Kills. On the company’s website, they have a short description that details how Depp got involved and inspired the Johnny Depp – Silence Exile Cunning tee.
“One of the first people in the public eye to get behind the Beverly Kills brand was the legendary actor and musician, Johnny Depp. During a conversation about our message, he talked about the last few years of his life and why he can relate so much to the brand. He pointed to a tattoo on his arm and said ‘This is what you guys need to tell people right here. This is the road map to life.’ The tattoo read ‘Silence, Exile, Cunning,’ a reference to this powerful declaration in James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.”
15. Gonzo Fist Tattoo
Johnny Depp has many famous friends, but one of his closest and strangest people he struck up a friendship with was gonzo journalist Hunter S Thompson. The two first met in December of 1994, with Depp telling Newsweek in a 2011 interview, “It was from that very second, when he sat down, that I recognized before me the very definition of a Southern gentleman. We connected on the level of both being from Kentucky, both having checkered pasts in our youth, and a great love of literature.”
Depp would go on to play Thompson in two movies, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and The Rum Diary. After Thompson committed suicide in 2005, Depp decided to get the gonzo fist tattoo as a tribute to his late friend. The tattoo is of a six-fingered fist holding a peyote button.
16. Grandfather’s Portrait Tattoo
Family is a reoccurring theme when it comes to Johnny Depp’s tattoos. As well as several tattoos dedicated to his ex’s and children, Depp has a large portrait of his grandfather Jim Depp. He passed away when Depp was just nine but the two appear to have had a close relationship.
In an interview with Vanity Flair magazine, Depp explained how his grandfather inspired him. “We were very, very close, and I lost him. I was about nine. He was a wonderful model. He drove a bus during the day and ran moonshine at night. He was a Robert Mitchum type, a man’s man. He just said things as they were.”
17. “Salve Ogum” Tattoo
Found on his left arm, this cartoonish-looking tattoo features the words “Salve Ogum,” with an image of a skull wearing a crown separating the words. Salve is the Portuguese word for save while Ogum is an Afro-American deity. There isn’t much more information regarding this tattoo, except that he got it while in Hawaii in 2010.
18. Mother’s Portrait Tattoo
As well as her name, Johnny Depp also has a large portrait of his mother on his left forearm. Just like his grandfather, the two had a close relationship and the tattoo of his mom is of her waitressing at the Holiday Inn in Kentucky, where she worked for much of her life.
19. “SCAM” Tattoo
Johnny Depp got the name “slim” tattooed across the knuckles of his right hand to pay homage to the nickname given to him by Amber Heard. When the two divorced, he had it changed to “scum.” Then after the trial, he made one more alteration, replacing the “u” with an “a” to create the word “scam” in relation to his relationship with his ex.
20. “Man Is a Giddy Thing” Tattoo
Another of Johnny Depp’s unique tattoos is of a faceless man, drawn by his son Jack. Below is written the sentence “man is a giddy thing,” which is a line from Shakespeare’s play Much Ado About Nothing and a lyric from the Mumford and Sons song “Sigh No More.”
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