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What does John Wick’s tattoo mean 2024

In the first John Wick film, John Wick has a tattoo on his back that says “Fortis Fortuna Adiuvat” in Latin, which translates to “fortune favors the bold”. The phrase is similar to the motto of the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines, which is “Fortes Fortuna Juvat”. 

The phrase could suggest that Wick has a military or police background. It is a quote from Terence’s play Phormio.

The tattoo across his back reads “Fortis Fortuna Adiuvat,” translated from Latin into, “fortune favors the bold.” It is reminiscent of the motto for the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines – “Fortes Fortuna Juvat.” The meaning is similar. Tattoos with similar slogans are not uncommon in many branches of the armed forces.

  •  John Wick’s tattoos have deep meanings that reveal his complex backstory and inner conflicts. They showcase his life, including his criminal past, faith, and regrets.
  •  The tattoos suggest that John Wick may have a military background, potentially as a Marine Corps veteran, given his combat skills, firearm proficiency, and the Latin phrase tattooed on his back.
  •  Besides indicating his criminal history, religion, and allegiance to the Ruska Roma crime syndicate, the tattoos also showcase John Wick’s appreciation for fine art and his distinct identity as an elite assassin.

John’s tattoo reads, “Fortis Fortuna Adiuvat,” or “fortune favours the brave” in Latin. This is also a loose translation of the motto of the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines — although their spelling is “Fortes Fortuna Juvat.” This is common enough that it’s not conclusive evidence alone, but it’s definitely a starting point.

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, 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.

In the “John Wick” film series, the eponymous character, John Wick, has a distinctive tattoo on his back. The tattoo is written in Latin and reads “Fortis Fortuna Adiuvat.” The translation of this phrase is “Fortune Favors the Bold.”

What does John Wick’s tattoo mean 2024

“Fortis Fortuna Adiuvat” is a classical Latin proverb that emphasizes the idea that those who take risks and are bold in their actions are more likely to be successful or fortunate. It suggests that fortune or luck tends to favor those who are courageous, daring, or willing to take decisive steps.

This Latin phrase has a long history and has been used in various contexts, including military mottos and as a general expression of the concept of boldness leading to favorable outcomes. In the context of John Wick’s character, the tattoo reflects his fearless and determined nature, as well as his readiness to face risks and challenges head-on.

It’s worth noting that while the tattoo itself has a clear meaning in Latin, its significance in the narrative of the “John Wick” films adds layers to the character’s backstory and personality. The tattoo serves as a visual element that contributes to the mystique and depth of the character within the context of the movies.

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.

A spiritual force that could be just as much bad as good. Note that Her name is placed at the centre 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 ‘favours’ which takes poetic license to give an F-F alliteration in English.

What does John Wick’s tattoo mean?

While “John Wick” was broadcast last night on France 2, focus on the enigmatic tattoo worn by the character played by Keanu Reeves and on its meaning.

Fortis Fortuna Adiuvat.”

Fortune favours the brave. It is at the beginning of John Wick (broadcast last night on France 2), while the ex-assassin played by Keanu Reeves patiently ruminates on his revenge in the shower, that we can see this mysterious inscription on his shoulders.

This tattoo is inspired by a famous Latin quote between a flame and a wolf’s head, above a Catholic cross and two praying hands. But what does he tell us about the character’s past?

Former particularly feared hitman, linked to the criminal organizations of the Continental and the Great Table, John Wick is an enigmatic character, especially in the first instalment of the franchise where his life before is very little detailed. However, according to specific theories, this inscription allows determining with precision what his training was.

Indeed, “forts Fortuna juvat” ( “fortune favours the bold” ), a very slight variation of the phrase used by John Wick, corresponds to the motto of the 3rd Marine Infantry Regiment of the United States.

Therefore, does this Latin proverb popularized by Virgil in The Aeneid mean that John Wick cut his teeth in the US Marine Corps? None of the first three games in the franchise allows us to confirm this, even if one would be tempted to think so, given his exceptional combat skills.

What does John Wick’s tattoo mean 2024

Note also that in a scene cut from the second opus, this same formula is pronounced by a cardinal of the Vatican to the address of John Wick, who come to seek his advice. Would she thus be linked to the organization of which the ex-assassin belonged?

Anyway, everyone will agree that this quote is perfect for the character, who never hesitates to show exceptional “daring” and does not usurp his back tattoo.

Is “John Wick” related to “Matrix”? (Re) discover fan theory

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.’

What does John Wick’s tattoo mean 2024

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 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 favoured 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.

What does John Wick’s tattoo mean 2024

  • 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 her 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 favours 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)

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.

What does John Wick’s tattoo mean 2024

Does Jeff Bezos have a glass eye?

John Wick’s backstory has never been explicitly explained in the films or accompanying comic series. Though the third film or prequel TV series may give us more concrete evidence, we’ve been given enough puzzle pieces to confidently say he served in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Given his extreme handiwork with firearms, hand-to-hand combat proficiency, cold demeanour, proper posture, and dispensation of absolute wrath towards anyone who harms the things he loves, it’s not too much of a stretch to say that he once was a Marine. No single point is definitive proof but it’s fun to speculate. Vet On The StreetVET ON THE STREET – Word Assoc. 2Shareh

Chad Stahelski, the director of the franchise, was asked by Collider in a 2017 interview about John Wick’s backstory. He said that the series isn’t about overloading the audience with dry exposition, but rather shows the audience little things. Stahelski said,

john wicks tattoo

What is the meaning of Fortis Fortuna Adiuvat? fortune favours the strong/brave”Fortuna” refers to luck or its personification, a Roman goddess. Another version of the proverb, fortis Fortuna adjuvant (“fortune favours the strong/brave”), was used in Terence’s comedy play Phormio, line 203. … The Latin phrase Fortuna Eruditis Favet (“fortune favours the prepared mind”) is also used.

Is John Wick a Marine?

John Wick, prior to being a hitman, served in the United States Marine Corps. This can be noticed by the tattoo on his back, which from Latin to English says “Fortune Favors the Brave”, the motto of the United States Marine Corps, 3rd battalion, 3rd Marines who have been through 5 tours of duty.

Are Keanu Reeves tattoos real in John Wick?

And more importantly, nobody could forget Keanu’s tattoos throughout the John Wick series. … Despite his on-screen body art, though, the real Keanu Reeves doesn’t actually have any tattoos, according to Toddler.

What is the tattoo on the adjudicator in John Wick 3?

einfühlungTrivia. The Adjudicator is the first main antagonist in a John Wick film not to die in their debut film. Tattooed on the left side of their neck is “einfühlung”, which is German for empathy. Movie John Wick Back Tattoo Back Tattoos, Tattoos For Guys, Cool Tattoos, Tattoos … John Wick – Fortis Fortuna Adiuvat Tattoo | Full-Size PNG Download |

What is Fortis Fortuna Adiuvat military?

In the first film, a showering Wick is seen sporting a tattoo across his back that says “Fortis Fortuna Adiuvat” (“fortune favors the bold”), a motto adopted, albeit with a different spelling, by the infantry Marines of the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment.

Is John Wick a Marine?

Abilities. John Wick was once the best assassin under Viggo Tarasov’s crime syndicate. As a former Marine, he was one of deadliest around, whom of which eliminated all of Viggo’s competition on his way to the top.

What is the meaning of Adiuvat?

“Fortis Fortuna adiuvat” (or “adjuvat”) means literally “Fortune helps the strong [ones],” an idea better known to us as “Fortune favors the brave.” It’s a quote from Terence’s play Phormio.

What does the cross mean in John Wick?

Based on what little else has been revealed about John Wick’s origin story, the cross or rosary represents a debt owed to him by The Director. The cross is John’s ticket to escape New York and secure safe passage from The Director’s forces all the way to Casablanca.

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In 2014, the world was introduced to one of the latest action heroes in cinema. Quickly rising up the ranks of legends such as James Bond, Jason Bourne, and John McClane is John Wick. No matter which chapter you enjoy watching, you’ll quickly discover that Wick is an absolute force not to be messed with, delivering impressive moves and demonstrating mastery of his weapons. This has led many to wonder what deeper secrets lie within the lore of the character, including speculation that Wick is a U.S. Marine. His “fortuna fortis adiuvat” tattoo has sparked debate about his fictional ties to one of the world’s most respected military branches.

Related read: Veterans Day Movies Guide: 5 Characters You Didn’t Know Were Veterans

What Does Fortis Fortuna Adiuvat Mean?

The “fortis fortuna adiuvat” meaning comes from its Latin origins which translates to “fortune favors the bold.” However, it may also translate to “fortune favors the brave.” The saying “fortuna fortis adiuvat” is used in various circles including the military as an expression of courage and good luck when facing an upcoming challenge.

These discrepancies in translation have brought on conspiracies about the background of John Wick. This is because Wick has a tattoo on his back reading “fortes fortuna juvat.” This is a known motto used by the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines.

This translation does mean “fortune favors the bold” but surely, it’s just semantics, isn’t it? There remains a lot of speculation about not only the correct translation but the other factors surrounding Wick’s lore, yet the tattoo remains the focal point of discussion.

Fortune Favors the Bold vs. Fortune Favors the Brave

A Latin proverb from a Roman playwright named Publius Terentius Afer, or Terence for short, continues to influence the acting world thousands of years later. His play Phormio is where we first see the phrase.

Adding to the controversy is a Roman poet named Virgil who translated “fortuna fortis adiuvat” as “audentis fortuna iuvat.” This would change things from “bold” to “brave.” Language being as it is, both phrases remained.

Today, we continue to examine both sayings. Not simply as quotes or sources of inspiration, but to determine whether or not John Wick is a Marine. Perhaps the new movie, John Wick: Chapter 4 which hit theaters on March 24 and is now streaming on VOD services, gives more information. Right now, everyone seems to only be adding to the speculation rather than clarifying the canon.

Suggested read: These 20 Cool Military Call Signs Will Leave You Jealous (or Laughing)

Was John Wick a Marine? Fortuna Fortis Adiuvat and Part 4 Fuels Theories

Fans of John Wick are in luck as Keanu Reeves just hit the big screen again as his iconic character for the new instillation in the saga. The legendary assassin isn’t quite done, and neither are the theories fueling the idea that Wick is a Veteran of the U.S. Marines.

Stars of the series, including Reeves himself, Willem Dafoe, and even the film’s director Chad Stahelski, have made reference that Wick was trained in the military. It doesn’t take much to see in the fights he has overcome that this is not a farfetched idea.

When you throw in the various language skills, real-life training Reeves did with Navy SEAL Shawn Ryan to prepare, and again, the tattoo, it’s impossible to say for sure. It’s possible that eagle-eyed fans of Chapter 4 may provide more background and finally solve this long-speculated mystery.

Whether or not the fortuna fortis adiuvat is a mistranslation or direct tie waiting to be discovered, Wick is back for another round of high-flying action.

Read next: Inside Diego Garcia: The Most Mysterious U.S. Naval Base

DudeWhat Do John Wick’s Tattoos Mean?

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

john wick tattoo back

The “Fortis Fortuna Adiuvat” tattoo loosely translates as “Fortune Favors The Bold”

The origin of this Latin phrase is military, used as the motto of several military units over the world.
This might be a hint about Wick’s military past before his role as an assassin.

fortes fortuna

The fortis fortuna adiuvat tattoo is never explained in the movie apart from this short scene in the shower, which leaves a hint of mystery, adding some intrigue without the need to explain every detail.

Praying Hands Tattoo


Those praying hands on John wick’s back have an origin from the masterpiece of German Renaissance painter Albrecht Dürer.
According to the movie fans, the praying hands on his back could indicate his allegiance to the Russian family he worked for.
Some believe that this tattoo represents the Christian prayer (asking God for forgiveness), others think that praying hands are supplicating the pagan god of luck.
The opinions are divided and there is no definitive answer to the real meaning of this tattoo. 

Shoulder Cross Tattoo

john wick cross shoulder

The small portion of the tattoo is struck through with a scar (and it’s unknown what kind of scar is it).
Contrary to many discussions on the Internet, the scar isn’t really “crossing out” the cross and does not have antichristian meaning.

With these tattoos, Wick can be perceived as an avenging hero, but not a dark man…he is a loving husband, driven to rage by the cruelty of evil men taking his wife’s last gift from him.
We can agree that Wick’s strength comes from his faith that helps him to fight the evil.

If you want to learn how to download John Wick’s movies for free without getting in trouble, follow this article.

If you have a different opinion about John Wick’s tattoos, let us know in the comments below.

Table of Contents

  1. Fortune favors the bold – or does it?
  2. Fortune Favors the Bold
  3. Why It Isn’t About the Bold
  4. Deconstructing What John Wick’s Tattoo Means
  5. What John Wick’s Back Tattoo Means
  6. More Tattoo Meanings Revealed on Parabellum
  7. The 2019 Update – SPOILER ALERT!

Fortune favors the bold – or does it?

In May 2019, we waited the release of “Parabellum.” This year, we await the release of chapters 4 and 5, which were initially reported as going in production — at the same time. That rumor has since been nixed, with Keanu Reeves still committed to doing “The Matrix 4.” So until those releases from the franchise come out, fans content themselves with digging up more information.

Aside from how John Wick’s wife died and questions about betrayal, people want to know more about the avenging assassin’s impressive back tattoo, with the Latin phrase, “fortis Fortuna adiuvat” written above praying hands and a cross.

Why? The movie itself deems it of great importance.

According to the rules of Chekhov’s gun, when something is given a lot of focus on, it must mean something important to be used later in the story. In the first movie, “John Wick, we get a few seconds showing John’s tattoo in the shower. That must mean that that tattoo has importance, yet in the first and second movie, we’ve never really seen it come to life.

When fandoms, movies and popular characters are inspiring more people to get a tattoo, the cryptic ink of one of the most feared assassins is something men and women may want to get. But given that tattoos are permanent, it would be nice to understand the meaning behind tattoos first before getting inked. Even the most popular tattoo designs have to resonate with a certain person before they have it etched to their skin, so it’s only natural to want to know what John Wick’s tattoo really means.

Those interested in finding out what John Wick’s tattoo means can do a quick Google search to find out that it supposedly means the Latin proverb, “Fortune favors the bold” or “Fortune favors the brave.”

But upon checking historical Latin examples and uses, although there are various ways of saying fortune favors the bold, John Wick’s tattoo isn’t one of them.

The phrases may be similar in the way that they both talk about fortune, but it’s not the same message.

Let’s explore what John Wick’s tattoo really means.

Fortune Favors the Bold

There are various wordings of the Latin phrase for “fortune favors the bold,” but the most common is audentis Fortuna iuvat. We can trace this back to Virgil’s Aeneid, used by the King of the Rutuli, Turnus. In this case, “Fortuna” can both refer to the concept of fortune or its Roman personification, Fortuna, the Roman goddess.


Fortuna is the Roman goddess that serves as the personification of luck. When poets invoke her name or when Romans call for her favor, they’re praying for good luck and hoping to avoid the bad luck she brings when they incur her wrath. Because she controls fate, she was also said to have a hand on who is successful and lives, and who isn’t.

Why It Isn’t About the Bold

Let’s break down the Latin phrase audentis Fortuna iuvat.

Audentis is the singular genitive form of audens, which means someone daring, bold, and eager for battle. Fortuna, as we’ve already established, is the goddess that symbolizes fortune. Iuvat, in this phrase, acts as something of a verb which means to save, aid, gratify, or delight.

In other words, for someone to achieve fortune and success, they have to be willing enough to fight for it. It’s an aggressive idea, but one that has been used many times in armies, navies, and other military groups around the world.

This causes a problem for people who think John Wick’s back tattoo means fortune favors the bold, considering it doesn’t say that. Rather, it says “fortis Fortuna adiuvat,” which is, although similar, slightly different from the original “Fortune favors the bold.”

Deconstructing What John Wick’s Tattoo Means

One of the world’s most popular and sought-after tattoo studios is John Wick Tattoo. They exclusively use the best tattoo pen machines available, ensuring their clients have a perfect experience with every session. Their state-of-the-art equipment includes rotary iron guns that provide smooth lines, gentle shading, and high-quality coil machines for bolder artwork. Every piece of equipment is rigorously tested to ensure it meets its high standards before being used in a session.

Now that we know what Fortuna means, let’s break down the two other words in his tattoo: fortis and adiuvat.


Instead of audentis, John Wick’s back tattoo says fortis, which means strong, courageous, or brave. Some may argue that it’s not that different from audens, as one who is bold must also be strong. But in terms of grammar, audentis is the neutral singular form whereas fortis is a neutral plural noun. Although the former refers to a daring one, John Wick’s tattoo refers to a plural group of brave ones.

And in terms of vocabulary, it can be argued that bold is different from strong. Both can mean a courageous person who would do something an average person would choose not to do, but both will have different connotations.

The word “bold” can be positive, but it is also linked to someone who is rash, brazen, or offensive. You don’t have to be strong to be offensive. Being “strong,” however is someone who isn’t afraid and will act upon what they believe, whether by physical means or any way possible.


Adiuvat has the same root word as the other phrase, iuvat. The ad- is actually a prefix, with means to towards a certain direction. Added with the meaning of iuvat, which means save or aid, the word adiuvat does not mean to favor, but rather “to come and aid” or “to come and save.” Favor may be a good synonym for iuvat, but not for adiuvat.

In fact, according to Latin poetry translator Benjamin Griffin, the translation we know today as “fortune favors the bold” may have used “favors” because of poetic license which, although rings off the tongue and sounds catchy, is not a hundred percent accurate.

Courtesy of Tony T.’s Pinterest Account

What John Wick’s Back Tattoo Means

Therefore, the meaning of John Wick’s Latin tattoo isn’t “fortune favors the bold” as many fans claim.

Rather, it says “Fortune will come to save the strong ones” or, as Griffin puts it, “It is only the strong ones that Fortuna comes to save.”

You can even argue that, based on the various translations of fortis, it could mean “Fortune will save the brave.”

It’s a bit similar to “fortune favors the bold.” But if you look at it in terms of the John Wick movies, you can see that the films favor the other translation.

Sure, the tattoo isn’t as “in your face” as a skull and sword tattoo, but some claim it may just be a reference to his time in the Marines, as the John Wick videogames later indicate. But if you look at a bigger picture, it really reflects the fates of some major characters in the trilogy.

Iosef Tarasov, who impulsively decides to beat up John Wick, steal his car, and kill his dog, is bold. But as the first movie – as well as Aurelio and Viggo’s reaction – show, they did not appreciate Iosef’s brash decision. In fact, his actions have earned him the total opposite of fortune, and it’s his decision to pursue the matter of John’s car that ultimately leads to his death.

On the other hand, if you look at John’s actions in the same movie, you would say that he’s stronger and braver than he is bold. His dog’s death shook him (and everyone else watching the movie), but his thirst for revenge shows he’s calculating, and he has only one goal.

He wasn’t rash about anything: he was smart, took his time, persevered and handled anything that stopped him from his goal. And ultimately, he was successful. He was stronger and braver than he was rash, and as a result, he was more fortunate than, say, the entire bold and rash Russian Mafia.

We also see this play out in the second movie, where being bold doesn’t really earn you any favors.

In “John Wick 2,” it’s John who exhibits the loss of fortune. Choosing to break one of two of their community’s rules and killing Santino inside the Continental, John puts himself in a difficult position because every highly skilled assassin who wants $14 million is now out to get him.

It was frustrating for Santino to have escaped his clutches, but had John chosen to be strong and learn from what happened to Ms. Perkins in the last film, he wouldn’t have been in the situation he’s in with “John Wick: Parabellum.”

So who was the strong one Fortuna favored in the movie if it wasn’t John?

Well, I think it’s Cassian. Cassian was only doing his job when he sought revenge for Gianna’s death. But if you remember that tense scene where he was forced to stop trying to kill John and share a drink in the Continental. Like John in the first movie, he played by the rules and waited. It’s probably one of the reasons why John had so much professional respect for him – because he, too, showed strength and courage that John could respect.

And not only does this tattoo reflect so much on the first two films; its true meaning may also have an effect on the third movie.

More Tattoo Meanings Revealed on Parabellum

While deconstructing the true meaning of John Wick’s tattoo, I realized three important implications the message on his Latin tattoo could have on “Parabellum.”

In “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum,” the baba yaga or John Wick, has a $14 million hit on him and he must escape an entire organization of assassins. This time, however, he doesn’t have the safety of the Continental, which had already saved him at least once in the last two movies.

The trailers, teasers, and poster for John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum hints that John Wick, now with a $14 million hit on him, must escape an entire organization of assassins. This time, however, he doesn’t have the safety of the Continental, which had already saved him at least once in the last two movies.

A Braver, Less Bold Man

The first implication is that John is now a wiser assassin. He was once a brave assassin, but his decision to choose to kill Santino has led to his downfall. There’s not much to say about this except he may be more careful about which step he makes, but more on this later.

The Fate of Winston

Second, Winston’s action was brave. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, what if one of the ways John Wick can ever truly be safe again is if he killed the High Table and, as a result, destroy the organization of hitmen and create an every man for himself sort of world? Or, even worse, what if he tried to kill everyone? He’s done it before, so chances are he’ll do it again.

However, that may mean killing everyone in the crime underworld, including the staff members of the Continental. Will fortune favor Winston, who spared John Wick’s life for a moment by giving him a marker and giving him an hour’s head start? By the laws of Chekhov’s gun, that marker will be used one day. But what if the act of giving John a marker becomes what eventually saves Winston’s life?

The Strong Ones

Third, note how the Latin tattoo says, “the strong ones.” It’s in plural form. If John Wick made this tattoo for himself, it’s worded incorrectly because he’s just one man. What if this means the tattoo wasn’t limited to just John Wick himself, but to every assassin in the John Wick universe?

What if that was the way an assassin initiates themselves into the network of hitmen, and they all played with the same rule that the strong ones are the ones favored with fortune?

If everyone (or at least the hitmen in the same league as John Wick’s skill) had the same tattoo, what if a hitman’s downfall – choosing to be rash and bold rather than strong and brave – is what eventually leads to their downfall.

Iosef is dead, Viggo is dead, Marcus, Santino, Ms. Perkins and anyone who acted rashly without a care for the rules or the consequences are now dead.

What if, because of John’s decision to kill Santino, he’s sealed his fate?

First, it means that I’ve spoiled the ending for myself. Second, it means that no matter how much John Wick fights to get out of New York City, eventually, he will meet his downfall. Then, it may mean that the entire film revolves around characters’ hamartia – their fatal flaw that leads to their downfall. And in a film series piled with corpses, it’s not hard to think that each character has at least one fatal flaw.

Image from Shad Connelly

I may just be making a big deal out of a back tattoo. But notice how that tattoo was the focus for 10 seconds while John Wick was taking a shower in the first movie. When movies are trying to keep things short to fill in more story, the fact that it got so much screen time means that it is important – possibly a recurring theme in the film?

And notice the third film’s name, “parabellum.” It’s Latin, from the Latin phrase “Si vis pacem, para bellum,” or “If you want peace, prepare for war.” It’s saying that, in Chapter 3, John needs to prepare for war. And, as history of wars has shown, if you want to win, you’ve got to have brave and strong soldiers, not bold soldiers.

The 2019 Update – SPOILER ALERT!

“John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” had its highs and lows. I was surprised how all three of my predictions about John Wick’s tattoo kind of came true.

The prediction that the tattoo referred to “The Strong Ones” rather than just one strong person was right on the nose. It’s revealed that John Wick was originally from Belarus and a former protégé of The Director. John’s background does explain the gun-fu scenes in the much-anticipated franchise, with fight sequences mimicking a kind of ballet — bathed in blood, of course.

We get a scene where another of The Director’s recruits – a ballerina femme fatale – shares the same back tattoo as John Wick.

It’s highly likely that not all assassins in John Wick have this tattoo, but there’s a probability that all of the assassins trained by The Director have it. We might see this in the fourth installment of the series or in the rumored spin-off focusing on the ballerina herself.

Next, we talked about how Winston’s actions in the second movie could be what saves his life. He survives his actions, but just not in the way we expected. John was offered the chance to have his excommunicated status removed and his transgressions forgiven if he killed Winston, something he ultimately refused to do. With his debt paid, however, Winston had no guilt shooting John off the roof of the Continental to prove his fealty to the High Table.

We also mentioned how John Wick’s safety may not be assured until he manages to kill the entire High Table. He didn’t get to do this in “Parabellum,” but at the end of the movie after getting shot off the roof of the Continental, he’s saved and taken to the Bowery King.

Earlier in the movie, the Bowery King (and Winston) were forced to resign their positions in the underworld as punishment for helping John. The Bowery King refused to abdicate, so as punishment was sliced seven times by a ninja hired by The Adjudicator. He survived, but now it’s clear that both he and John Wick have an axe to grind with the High Table.

Could this be the start of the war between John Wick and the Bowery King’s network versus the High Table? We’ll just have to wait and see in “John Wick 4: Resurrection.”

Keanu Reeves as John Wick


In only a few short years, Keanu Reeves’ John Wick has become one of the most popular antiheroes in cinematic history. «The Baba Yaga», as he became known, is among the Bill & Ted actor’s most successful roles, and has spawned a hugely successful franchise. He’s scrappy, stoic, and mysterious, but there’s more to him than meets the eye. Each installment of the series reveals a little more about the feared hitman, but there is still a lot to him that fans don’t know. 

John Wick introduced its title character through tragedy, detailing the loss of his wife and the murder of a beagle puppy that was a gift from her. It acted as the catalyst for his return as a terrifying gunslinger and introduced audiences to his old life. One particular shot in the first film shows him from behind in the shower, giving viewers a lingering look at his many tattoos.

Beyond this scene, John Wick’s’ tattoos don’t get much more time in the spotlight, since he wears his signature black suits from then on out. His backstory also goes untouched from that point on, as the sequels tend to focus on a present situation that continues to worsen. Nevertheless, his briefly-shown tattoos have a lot to say about his past, as well as the hitman society he inhabits.

The significance of prayer and the cross in the John Wick franchise

John Wick's back tattoos


Faith is a recurring theme in the John Wick franchise, and religious allegory plays a vital role in the subtext of each film. It also contributes to the lore behind the High Table and the cult-like practices of the assassin underworld. As shown in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, many members of that organization adorn their bodies with religious — specifically Catholic — imagery. John Wick is no exception, bearing prayer hands with a cross on his back, as well as another cross on his left shoulder.

These tattoos were not impulsive choices from a night out on the town, but important images to those in John Wick’s line of work. As a younger man, his training intertwined with the Catholic faith. The entire hitman network that runs across the globe is in service to a mysterious ring known as the High Table, which is often described in terms usually reserved for deities. What’s more, the Vatican factors into John Wick: Chapter 2 and appears in a deleted scene from that film, confirming its connections to John Wick’s day job.

The layered meaning behind fortis Fortuna adiuvat in John Wick

John Wick: Chapter 2's Vatican deleted scene


One of the most prevalent tattoos on Wick’s body is the phrase «fortis Fortuna adiuvat,» inked across his shoulders just above the prayer hands and cross. The term is Latin, and translates roughly to «Fortune favors the bold.» It has a lot of significance in both the real world, where the United States Marine Corps, 3rd battalion, 3rd Marines adopted it as their motto, and in the John Wick universe.

There are a few implications to what exactly this ink says about our protagonist. There’s the fact that it could lead viewers to believe he is a former Marine due to their close ties to the phrase. The previously mentioned deleted scene from Chapter 2 also provides a clearer insight into the subject. The clip depicts John Wick arriving at the Vatican to speak with a cardinal — asking for permission to go on yet another killing spree. The holy man simply replies «fortis Fortuna adiuvat» before extending his ring to be kissed. It seems members of John Wick’s order use the motto for encouragement, or as a code by which to live, which makes it all the more fitting an adornment for a killer the caliber of Keanu Reeves’ character.

Even with all these theories, there’s still a lot we don’t know about John Wick and his order. Perhaps answers will be forthcoming in the in-the-works John Wick 4, currently scheduled to arrive in May of

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