Dream Interpretation › Water - Dream meaning and symbolism

Water - Dream meaning and symbolism

Arnold Boecklin, Spiel der Wellen, 1883

Facts about water

Main symbolic meaning

  1. Emotions and moods – water symbolizes emotions because they are often similarly unbridled, shapeless and unpredictable. You can be overwhelmed or carried by water (ship pulled by the current of love/hate ...). Water is also conductive and can transfer or store energy (heating), what is also typical feature of emotions because they are primarily the source of motivation and mental power.
  2. Relativism, uncertainty – symbolic meaning derived from fluidness and shapelessness of water.
  3. Source of inspiration, life-giving and regenerating water – rain fertilizing the earth, spa water springs with health-giving properties, fairytales about fountain of youth, living water, protoplasm, water as (yin): the symbolic opposite of destructive fire.
  4. Lethal and destroying – unrestrained as flood, water can bury a village, cause drowning to people unable to swim, deep or boiling water is dangerous.
  5. Time symbolizing – a river is often typical depiction of a stream of events, past is the water that irrevocably ran away, backwater may be the symbol for peaceful present or a point without the future.
Claude Monet, Water Lilies, 1906, Art Institute of Chicago
Claude Monet, Water Lilies, 1906, Art Institute of Chicago
Hiroshige, Whirlpools on a rocky coast
Hiroshige, Whirlpools on a rocky coast, 1855

Dream meaning

Muddy or dirty water

The symbolic meaning of muddy water is mainly hidden in absence of transparency and clumsiness of movement. To dream about muddy water often shows that your emotions are unclear, that your heart is puzzled, that your soul is confronted with disorder. Small particles of dirt or sand floating in water are like doubts spoiling your clear view and straightforward feelings. When you get stuck in the mud it means that your situation seem to be insoluble or that you feel like being heavily bound by circumstances and can't move forward. Dirty water may also symbolize unpleasant, unhealthy or evil emotions (nobody likes to drink it from obvious reasons).   

Flood and drowning

Water is a very powerful element. People are able to build dams (i.e. Three Gorges Dam) to tame its power and to benefit from its energy. But from time to time we must face to the consequences when people overestimate own abilities (swimming too far away from the shore, swimming in a strong current, in cold water, drunk etc.) or when nature shows its superiority (unforeseen weather, accidents, earthquakes etc.) To dreams about a flood symbolize the higher power that is out of your control. But it is important to understand that water flooding your mind is usually not a symbol of an external event, but a metaphor of your own unconscious energy. Such inner energy can motivate (hydroelectric power) as well as devastate your mental landscape of rationality. When you are drowning in your dream, it symbolizes the inability to master your emotions adequately. Something inside you wants to overcome the rational self; or at least you are afraid of such possibility – and your dream is a sort of a mental dialog.

Deep water and open sea

dreaming about deep water is often close to the possibility of drowning (above). Deep water is connected to the vast open sea where nothing is solid. You can't hardly stay on the same spot. Deep water can mean relativism or depth of your emotions.

Driving a car into water

A car is a symbol of social status, success, additional strength and civilization. It is very important who drives the car into water – is it you or someone else? Are you the bad driver or just an unlucky passenger? Dreaming of driving a car yourself into water means your rational and civilized self is losing control. Maybe it is a hint that the path of your waking life is unsustainable or in conflict with your true unconscious wish. When some other driver can't handle the car properly and ends up in the water focus on him/her, because this is the symbolic element for failure, the key for understanding your dream.

Underwater or diving

Symbolic meaning of swimming underwater is associated with the prenatal period. People don't have gills and can't dive for long without a mask and oxygen. But if you are enjoying the underwater space in your dream that means you like exploring deep emotions or that you appreciate the realm of feelings more than pure rationality (solid ground).

Leaking water

Leaking in ship's hold is usually accompanied with fear of drowning or shipwreck, because you are surrounded with water. On the other hand leaking water from pipes symbolizes more manageable trouble. In both cases the dream tells you something is failing to fulfil the original purpose. The meaning may be: a pressure is too high (stress, demands ...), a material is too old or inappropriate (working without fulfilment, rusty marriage ...)

Rain, fountain, waterfall, geyser

Water drops have some evident sexual meaning (ejaculation). Rain is fertilizing the earth, a waterfall or a fountain is cooling in the hot summer and a geyser may be seen as the exit from underground for inspiration, creative power or accumulated emotions.

Arnold Boecklin, Isle of the Dead (Die Toteninsel), 1883
Arnold Boecklin, Isle of the Dead (Die Toteninsel), 1883


Inspiring art where water plays important symbolic role.  

Paintings and sculptures


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