What does John Wick’s tattoo mean?

What does John Wick’s tattoo mean?

FORTIS FORTUNA ADIUVAT should never be translated as “Fortune Favours the Bold”; nor is this the motto of the US Marine Corps. (who use, ‘fortES Fortuna Juvat’); Notably, it is not Christian.

In fact, it’s a proverb about a pagan goddess. One must note that revenge itself is thoroughly un-Christian, to say nothing of homicidal killing sprees.

You can skip my notes, straight to my translation, but you shouldn’t.

With this spelling, in particular, the Latin is of the oldest kind. It is much older than the modern Latin the US Marine Corps uses, and older even than medieval or Church Latin. It is a proverb that was considered ancient even in the pre-Christian times of Caesar.

What does John Wick’s tattoo mean?

I guess 2,500 years old. It is obviously pagan in spirit, as were the people that spoke it in the polytheism of global prehistory.

Moreover, it is this very pagan-ness that is critical to understanding Latin in the context of this Anti-Hero’s scratched out and contradictory tattoos.

fortis = “(The) Strong (ones)”. A plural noun — it refers to a specific class of people, not to abstract like ‘Strength’, nor the intention or attitude of ‘boldness’ or ‘bravery’ — for which there are robust, Audacia or fortitude respectively.

Fortuna = is a Roman Goddess, the personification of Luck and/or Fate.

 John Wick's tattoo
What does John Wick’s tattoo mean?

A spiritual force that could be just as much bad as good. Note that Her name is placed at the center of the tattoo and — if you look closely — slightly capitalized in the tattoo’s calligraphy in the same way that we Capitalise proper nouns in English.

It is not mere ‘good fortune’, in the sense of good luck, nor of ‘a fortune’ in the sense of money. This is the goddess of fate and luck.

Adiuvat = AD ‘to/toward’ + IUVAT ‘help/aid/save’ — particularly of a goddess, ‘comes to save’/’comes to the aid of’ is the best choice here. Not ‘favors’ which takes poetic license to give an F-F alliteration in English.

What does John Wick’s tattoo mean?

Knowing these things you can render it into modern English, and English word order, to catch the sentiment better like this:

fortes Fortuna Aduivat:

  • “It is only the strong ones that Fortuna (The Goddess) comes to save.”
  • N.B. This is the polar opposite of ‘the meek will inherit the earth.’

in re Praying Hands tattoo: Note, that this literally pagan, absolutely unchristian proverb is placed above — i.e. superior — to the praying hands on his back, and written with the particular late-republican Latin spelling of precisely those Romans that hung Christ on his cross.

How to interpret this contradiction? It is not a straightforwardly Christian. One could suggest that the praying hands are supplicating the pagan god of luck.

in re Shoulder Cross tattoo: It is struck through with a scar. A bullet? A knife scar? Self-inflicted?

Perhaps done by an old mafia boss so that a previously Catholic or Protestant cross then resembled the Russian Orthodox ones favored by his last employer.

If so, was it a kind of professional badge? Perhaps an accident of fate? (See the image in Nupur Shers’s post below, and make up your own mind.)

Finally, these tattoos appear on the back of John Wick. A really dark character, dressed in black, with a deep gritty voice, in a violent revenge film, and a decidedly unchristian one at that.

What does John Wick’s tattoo mean?

It is obvious to me that these tattoos are not about the superiority of US Navy training, nor of a Christianity that is any more than literally superficial.

Quite the opposite, these marks are a testament to the superficial, utterly broken, and all but discarded faith of a man who only believes in Luck— and even then, only because of his own strength (and weapons.)

  1. Need we comment on his previous life as a paid assassin for multiple organized crime syndicates. Not the ordinary trajectory for a Christian saint.
  2. It first appears in written history c.160 BCE, in a play by Terence, this recording is noted by Cicero as a Vetus prōverbium (Old proverb) C.f. ‘Usage notes’ in fortis Fortuna Adiuvat from Wiktionary.
  • Interestingly, the Romans these manly virtues had a specific word virtus, which comes from their word for a man vir. We get our word virtue.
  • In heraldry, placing images above means ‘more important’ or ‘stronger’. Here, we also have the very word for ‘the strong’ placed in this precise position, redoubling this meaning; Note also that the praying hands are beseeching this pagan, unchristian phrase… begging it to change? Or, praying to that pagan god capitalized directly above the hands.

P.S. It is fitting that the final sequence has John choose a Pit Bull for his dog. Not a golden retriever, Not a pug. Not a french poodle.

IMHO The only thing that would be more fitting is if he chose a Roman war dog (now extinct) that this Latin proverb has outlived.

What does John Wick’s tattoo mean?

Before John Wick goes on a killing spree from mourning husband to a vengeful assassin pulled back into the world he wanted to leave behind, we see Reeves in the shower, with the Latin phrase, “Fortis Fortuna Adiuvat” tattooed across his back.

Fortune favors the bold is the loose translation of the Latin proverb. It is around in various forms with slightly different wording, where Fortuna is the goddess of luck, for example

  • audentes Fortuna iuvat ( “fortune favors the bold”)
  • audentes Fortuna adiuvat (“Fortune comes to the aid of those daring”)
  • Fortuna audaces iuvat ( “Fortune helps the bold”)
  • audentis Fortuna iuvat is used by Turnus, the antagonist of Aeneid.
  • These Proverbs, in turn, descended from Fortes Fortuna Adiuvat. ( “fortune favors the strong”) used in Terence’s comedy play Phormio, line 203

The origin of the phrase is also military, used as the motto of several military units over the world. (Jutland Dragoon Regiment)

What does John Wicks tattoo mean
What does John Wick’s tattoo mean

This might be a hint about Wick’s military past before his stint as an assassin.

The tattoo is never explained or referenced in the film apart from that short scene, leaving a hint of mystery, adding some extra texture and intrigue without the need to explain every detail.

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Nancy Ajram

I am Nancy Ajram from Dubai, the beauty queen of UAE.

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