What Do Tattoos Symbolize? Discover the Hidden Meanings Behind Popular Tattoo Designs

Tattoos have been a part of human cultures and traditions for centuries. The art of marking one’s body permanently with ink has evolved from its primitive origins and has become an integral expression of individuality and self-expression today. For some, tattoos are a symbol of rebellion, while for others, they are a means of commemorating a significant event or person in their lives. But, have you ever wondered what tattoos symbolize or represent?

Tattoos are more than just body art; they are symbolic representations of the person who wears them. Each tattoo has a unique meaning, and for those who choose to adorn their bodies with them, it can be a reflection of their personality, beliefs, or culture. Tattoos can represent anything from strength and courage to love and devotion. They can also be a way of remembering someone or something that has had a profound impact on their life.

So, what do tattoos symbolize? The answer is as varied as the individuals who wear them. From the traditional Maori tattoos of New Zealand to the intricate designs of Japanese tattoos, tattoos have been a way for people to express themselves for generations. In this article, we will explore the different meanings and symbols behind tattoos, from the most common designs to the more obscure and unique. So, grab your favorite drink and settle in as we take a deep dive into the fascinating world of tattoos.

Historical Significance of Tattoos

Tattoos have been around for centuries and have been used for various purposes throughout history. Below are some of the historical significances of tattoos:

  • Tribal Identification: In ancient times, tattoos were used as a way to identify oneself with a particular tribe. Different tribes had their unique designs, and wearing a tattoo was a sign of loyalty to one’s tribal community.
  • Religious and Spiritual Significance: Tattoos were also seen as a way to express one’s religious or spiritual beliefs. In some cultures, tattoos were used as symbols of devotion to the gods.
  • Status Symbol: In some cultures, tattoos were reserved for the elite, signifying one’s status and rank in society. In ancient Egypt, tattoos were only worn by priests and priestesses.

Some of the earliest evidence of tattoos can be traced back to the ancient Egyptians, where mummies have been found with tattoos on their bodies. The ancient Greeks and Romans also used tattoos, although they were often used to mark criminals and slaves.

In Polynesia, tattoos were especially significant, and their creation and application were considered sacred. The Maori people of New Zealand had intricate facial tattoos that were seen as a way to showcase their strength and identity as warriors.

Region/CultureSignificance of Tattoos
Ancient EgyptReligious and Spiritual Significance
Ancient Greece and RomeUsed to Mark Criminals and Slaves
PolynesiaCultural Identity and Significance

While the significance of tattoos varies depending on the region and culture, tattoos have always been seen as a form of expression and identity. Today, tattoos have become increasingly popular worldwide, with individuals getting tattoos for various reasons, such as commemorating important moments in their lives, remembering loved ones, or simply as a form of art and self-expression.

Cultural differences in tattoo symbolism

Tattoos have held a prominent place in various cultures around the world for centuries. In some cultures, tattoos symbolize strength and courage, while in others, they represent status and identity. One of the most interesting aspects of tattoo symbolism is the cultural differences that exist, with certain designs holding vastly different meanings in different parts of the world. Among these cultural differences in tattoo symbolism, the following stand out:

  • Japan: In Japanese culture, tattoos have a long history dating back to the 18th century. Known as irezumi, the traditional Japanese tattoo style features intricate and colorful designs that depict mythical creatures, nature scenes, and religious symbols. These tattoos are traditionally associated with the yakuza, Japan’s organized crime syndicate. However, in recent years, irezumi has become more mainstream, and many people get tattoos to showcase their individuality and creativity.
  • New Zealand: In Maori culture, tattoos signify one’s status, heritage, and identity. Known as ta moko, these tattoos feature elaborate patterns that cover large areas of the body. Each design is unique and contains specific meanings that relate to the wearer’s genealogy, personal achievements, and social status. In Maori tradition, only people of high social rank could wear ta moko, but today, these tattoos are popular among both Maori and non-Maori people in New Zealand.
  • Polynesia: In Polynesian cultures, tattoos have religious and spiritual significance. These tattoos, known as tatau, are traditionally applied using a bone comb and ink made from burnt coconut shells. The designs are symmetrical and represent elements from nature, such as waves, sharks, and turtles. Tattoos were also used to mark important life events, such as puberty and marriage. Today, tatau are still popular in Polynesia and have become more mainstream with the rise of modern tattoo culture.

Symbolism of tattoos throughout the world

In addition to these cultural differences, the symbolism of tattoos varies widely depending on the design and the individual wearing it. For instance, a dragon tattoo may represent power and strength in one culture, while in another, it may signify wisdom and intelligence. Below are some common tattoo designs and their meanings across different cultures:

Tattoo DesignMeaning
ButterflyTransformation, beauty, and femininity
PhoenixRebirth, resilience, and immortality
SkullMortality, death, and the impermanence of life
HeartLove, passion, and emotion
CompassDirection, guidance, and exploration

Ultimately, the symbolism of a tattoo is deeply personal and varies from person to person. While certain designs may hold cultural or universal meanings, the significance of a tattoo depends on the individual who wears it.

Religious tattoo symbols

Religious tattoos have been around for centuries. It is a common way for people to showcase their faith and beliefs through body art. In this section, we will discuss the different religious tattoo symbols and what they signify.

Christian symbols

  • The cross – The most common Christian symbol, the cross is a reminder of the ultimate sacrifice Jesus made for humanity. It can also symbolize forgiveness, faith, and hope.
  • The ichthys – Also known as the fish symbol, the ichthys represents the miracle of the loaves and fishes, a story from the Bible. It is also a symbol of faith, unity, and strength.
  • The dove – A symbol of peace and the Holy Spirit, the dove is also associated with Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River.

Hindu symbols

Hinduism is one of the oldest religions in the world, and it has a rich variety of symbols and texts. Here are some of the most popular Hindu symbols in tattoo art.

  • The Om – This is one of the most sacred symbols in Hinduism. It represents the sound of the universe and the connection between the physical and spiritual world. It is also associated with the Ganesha, the remover of obstacles.
  • The lotus – A symbol of purity and enlightenment, the lotus is often depicted with deities in Hindu mythology.
  • The trishula – This is a three-pronged weapon associated with the god, Shiva. It represents the three aspects of the universe – creation, maintenance, and destruction.

Judaism symbols

Judaism is the oldest of the Abrahamic religions, and it has a rich tradition of symbolism and storytelling. Here are some of the most common Jewish tattoo symbols.

  • The Star of David – This six-pointed star represents the connection between God and humanity. It is also a symbol of protection and Jewish identity.
  • The hamsa – A hand-shaped symbol, the hamsa is often used to ward off the evil eye and offer protection from harm. It is also a symbol of strength and power.
  • The menorah – A seven-branched candelabrum, the menorah is a symbol of the Jewish people’s resilience and faith. It also represents the burning bush from which God spoke to Moses.

Buddhist symbols

Buddhism is known for its focus on mindfulness and inner peace, and its symbols reflect that philosophy. Here are some popular Buddhist symbols.

  • The lotus – Often associated with Hinduism, the lotus also appears in Buddhism as a symbol of purity and detachment. It represents the ability to rise above the muddy waters of material existence.
  • The Buddha – Depictions of Buddha in tattoo art can represent the pursuit of enlightenment, inner peace, and compassion.
  • The dharma wheel – This symbol represents the teachings and path to enlightenment outlined by the Buddha. It is often depicted with eight spokes, which represent the Noble Eightfold Path.

Religious tattoo symbols are a powerful way to showcase one’s faith and beliefs. Whether you’re Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Buddhist, or any other religion, there are plenty of symbols to choose from that can inspire and connect you to something greater than yourself.

Love and Relationship Tattoos

Love and relationships are some of the most common themes people choose for tattoo designs. These tattoos are not just beautiful but also have a more profound meaning. Whether it is a couple tattoo or a loving quote, these tattoos serve as a daily reminder of the love people share.

One of the most popular designs for love and relationship tattoos is the infinity symbol. The infinity symbol represents the never-ending love people share with their partner. The symbol has a loop that represents a never-ending connection, and people often add their partner’s name to the tattoo to personalize it.

  • Heart tattoos:
  • Heart tattoos are also a popular choice for love and relationship tattoos. People often get heart tattoos with their partner’s name, date of marriage, or a meaningful quote. The heart tattoo design can vary, such as a broken heart or a heart with wings.
  • Matching tattoos:
  • Matching tattoos are another popular trend for love and relationship tattoos. Couples often get matching tattoos to symbolize their commitment to each other. These tattoos can be anything, from something as simple as a shared design to something more personalized with a meaningful message or quote.
  • Anchor tattoos:
  • Anchor tattoos are also often used as a symbol of love and commitment. The anchor represents stability and strength, and people often add their partner’s name or initials to the tattoo for a more personalized touch.

Another popular trend for love and relationship tattoos is getting a quote or word tattooed that is meaningful to both partners. This could be anything from a love poem to a personal mantra that both people live by.

Finally, it is crucial to note that while love and relationship tattoos are beautiful, they are also a significant commitment. It’s important to think long and hard before getting a love tattoo, as it is a permanent reminder of the past relationship. Consider getting a tattoo design that is personal to you, rather than solely focused on your current partner.

Infinity SymbolNever-ending love and connection
Heart TattooLove and devotion to your partner
Matching TattoosSymbolize commitment and togetherness
Anchor TattooRepresents stability, strength and commitment

In conclusion, love and relationship tattoos represent the bond between couples and the commitment they have to each other. These tattoos not only look beautiful but are also personal and meaningful. Whether it’s an infinity symbol, heart tattoo or matching tattoo, there are countless designs to choose from that will represent the love shared between two people.

Nature-inspired tattoo symbols

Tattoos have been used for centuries to symbolize beliefs, cultural heritage, and personal expression. One popular theme for tattoos is nature-inspired symbols, which often represent the natural world and our connection to it. Here are some of the most common nature-inspired tattoo symbols and what they represent:

  • Tree: Trees are deeply rooted in many cultures and symbolize strength, growth, and life. A tree tattoo may represent your connection to your family, your heritage, or your personal growth and development.
  • Bird: Birds are often associated with freedom, travel, and the ability to soar above obstacles. A bird tattoo may reflect your love for travel or your desire for personal freedom.
  • Flower: Flowers are delicate and beautiful, and are often used to symbolize beauty, growth, and new beginnings. A flower tattoo may represent your love for nature or your desire to start fresh.

Other common nature-inspired tattoo symbols include animals such as wolves, bears, and deer, as well as natural elements like mountains, waves, and the moon. Each of these symbols has its own unique meaning and can be used to express a wide range of personal beliefs and values.

If you are considering getting a nature-inspired tattoo, it is important to do your research and find a symbol that resonates with you. Take time to think about what the symbol means to you and how it fits into your personal beliefs and values. A tattoo is a permanent expression of who you are, so it is important to choose a symbol that you will be proud to wear for the rest of your life.

TreeStrength, growth, life
BirdFreedom, travel, ability to soar
FlowerBeauty, growth, new beginnings

No matter what symbol you choose, a nature-inspired tattoo is a beautiful way to express your connection to the natural world and your own personal journey. With the right design and placement, your tattoo can be a powerful symbol of your beliefs and values for years to come.

Symbolism behind animal tattoos

Animal tattoos have been popular throughout history, and each animal has its own symbolism and meaning. Here are some of the most common animal tattoos and what they symbolize:

  • Birds: Usually symbolize freedom and strength. Eagles, for example, are often associated with power and dominance, while swallows are thought to bring good luck.
  • Cats: Have been used for centuries as symbols of grace and agility. Black cats are commonly associated with magic and witchcraft.
  • Wolves: Are often seen as symbols of loyalty and family, as they live in packs and are fiercely protective of their own.

One animal that has gained popularity in recent years is the octopus. This eight-limbed sea creature is known for its intelligence and adaptability, making it a popular choice for those looking for a tattoo that symbolizes resilience and flexibility.

Another animal that holds special meaning for many people is the elephant. Known for their intelligence, wisdom, and strength, elephants are often chosen as symbols of protection and long-lasting memories.

BirdsFreedom and strength
CatsGrace and agility
WolvesLoyalty and family
OctopusResilience and flexibility
ElephantProtection and long-lasting memories

Whatever animal you choose for your tattoo, it is important to understand the symbolism behind it. Your tattoo can serve as a reminder of the qualities you admire and aspire to embody in your daily life.

Mythical creature tattoo symbolism: The Number 7

The number seven has long been regarded as a mystical and powerful number in many cultures and religions. It is often associated with spirituality, luck, and divine perfection. When it comes to mythical creature tattoos, the number seven can hold a lot of significance.

  • Seven-headed Hydra: In Greek mythology, the Hydra was a multi-headed serpent-like creature that was infamous for its regenerative abilities. The number seven represents the many heads that the Hydra possessed, making it a powerful and intimidating creature.
  • Seven Unicorns: In China, unicorns are a symbol of happiness and good fortune. In Chinese mythology, there are seven unicorns who are said to guard the gates of heaven. A tattoo of the seven unicorns can represent protection and a close connection to the divine.
  • Seven Dragon Balls: In Japanese manga and anime, Dragon Balls are magical artifacts that, when gathered together, can summon a dragon who will grant a wish to the person who summoned it. There are seven Dragon Balls in total, each one representing a different wish. A tattoo of the seven Dragon Balls can represent the power to make any wish come true.

While these are just a few examples, the number seven is a common and powerful symbol in many mythical creature tattoos. Whether you believe in the spiritual significance of this number or simply appreciate its aesthetic beauty, a tattoo that incorporates the number seven can hold deep meaning and significance for the wearer.

For those interested in further exploring the symbolism of mythical creatures in tattoo art, it is important to do thorough research and choose a design that resonates with personal beliefs and values. A tattoo is a permanent commitment and should be treated with care and consideration.

Zodiac and Astrological Tattoo Symbols

Many people believe that the placement and design of tattoos can reveal a lot about a person’s personality, beliefs, and life experiences. One popular theme among tattoo enthusiasts is zodiac and astrological symbols, which represent the 12 zodiac signs and various celestial bodies that are said to influence our lives.

The Number 8

The number 8 is often associated with infinity, abundance, and achievement in many cultures. In Chinese numerology, the number 8 is considered lucky because the word for “eight” sounds similar to the word for “prosperity” or “wealth”. In Hinduism, the octagram is a symbol of the divine feminine energy and is associated with the goddesses Kali and Durga.

For individuals who resonate with the symbolism of the number 8, incorporating it into a zodiac or astrological tattoo design can add a deeper spiritual meaning. Here are some zodiac and astrological symbols that can be combined with the number 8:

  • The Scorpio zodiac sign, which is traditionally represented by a scorpion, is associated with transformation, regeneration, and sexuality. Adding the number 8 to a Scorpio tattoo can represent the infinite potential for growth and evolution.
  • Saturn, the planet associated with discipline, boundaries, and karma, is often depicted with rings that create the number 8 shape. A tattoo of Saturn with the number 8 can symbolize the importance of structure and hard work in achieving one’s goals.
  • The infinity symbol, which resembles a sideways figure 8, represents the idea of limitless possibilities and eternal love. Adding zodiac or astrological symbols to the infinity sign can personalize the design and give it a more meaningful context.

If you’re considering getting a zodiac or astrological tattoo, take some time to research the different symbols and their meanings. The placement, size, and color of the tattoo can also affect its symbolism, so discuss your ideas with a reputable tattoo artist to create a design that truly represents you.


Chinese Fortune Calendarhttps://www.chinesefortunecalendar.com/
World of Feng Shuihttps://www.wofs.com/

Remember that a tattoo is a permanent piece of art on your body, so choose a design that you will love and be proud to wear for the rest of your life.

Political and Social Statement Tattoos

Tattoos have been a modern form of self-expression and body art since time immemorial. Today, tattoos have gone beyond just trendy fashion choices and have taken on a more personal, political, and social meaning. Political and social statement tattoos are powerful symbols of a person’s beliefs, ideologies, and experiences.

One popular number that people get tattooed on themselves is the number 9. The number has a deep meaning in many cultures and traditions. The number 9 is also associated with a lot of symbolism and is often used as a political and social statement tattoo.

  • The number 9 represents completion and fulfillment. It is often used as a symbol of achieving something great or significant, such as a degree, a goal, or a project.
  • In some cultures, the number 9 is believed to be a lucky number that brings good fortune, prosperity, and success.
  • For some people, the number 9 represents spirituality and spiritual enlightenment. It is often associated with the divine or higher power.

Moreover, the number 9 has been used in political and social tattoo statements. For example, the number 9 has been associated with the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States, with many people getting the numbers tattooed as a tribute to the victims or as a reminder of the tragedy. The number 9 has also been used as a symbol of resistance and defiance against authority and oppressive regimes.

Overall, the number 9 is a powerful symbol that carries a lot of meaning and significance. It is often used as a political and social statement tattoo, representing completion, luck, spirituality, and resistance.

ChineseLongevity, eternity, and spiritual completion.
EgyptianThe number of gods in the Ennead
Greek Nine gods and goddesses were the primary deities of the pantheon.
Hebrew The number of months it took for a woman to bear a child.

With over 20 million Americans getting tattoos each year, it’s no surprise that political and social statement tattoos have become a popular trend. They are a powerful way for people to express their beliefs, values, and experiences with the rest of the world. Whether it’s the number 9 or other symbols, political and social statement tattoos remind us that the human body is a powerful canvas for self-expression.

Memorial and Tribute Tattoos

Memorial and tribute tattoos are a unique and heartfelt way to pay homage to a loved one who has passed away or honor someone special in your life. These tattoos have become increasingly popular over the years and are a deeply personal way of keeping the memory of someone alive.

  • Designs: Memorial and tribute tattoos can feature a wide range of designs, from portraits of the individual to quotes, dates, and symbols that represent them.
  • Meaning: These tattoos are meant to serve as a constant reminder of the person they represent and can bring a sense of comfort and healing to those who wear them.
  • Placement: Placement of memorial and tribute tattoos is often chosen based on the individual’s personal preferences or the meaning behind the tattoo. Popular locations include the chest, back, and forearm.

It’s important to note that memorial and tribute tattoos are a lifelong reminder of the person they represent, and careful consideration should be taken before getting inked. It’s also important to work with a reputable tattoo artist who can bring your vision to life and capture the essence of the person you are honoring.

A portraitA reminder of the person’s physical presence and personalityChest, back, or upper arm
A quote or phraseA representation of the person’s beliefs or personality traitsForearm or upper arm
A significant dateA reminder of an important event or milestone in the person’s lifeWrist or inner bicep

Memorial and tribute tattoos can be a beautiful expression of love and remembrance. They serve as a permanent reminder of the person we hold dear in our hearts and keep their memory alive for years to come.

FAQs: What Do Tattoos Symbolize?

Q: What is the meaning behind a wolf tattoo?
Wolf tattoos are often seen as symbolizing strength, loyalty, and the power of the pack. Wolves are also commonly associated with protection and guidance.

Q: What do feather tattoos represent?
Feather tattoos are often seen as a symbol of freedom, flight, and spirituality. They can also represent the idea of leaving the past behind and moving forward in life.

Q: What is the symbolism behind a rose tattoo?
Rose tattoos can have different meanings depending on the color of the rose. Red roses typically represent love and passion, while white roses can symbolize purity and innocence.

Q: What do compass tattoos mean?
Compass tattoos are often seen as a symbol of guidance, direction, and adventure. They can also represent the idea of finding one’s way in life.

Q: What is the significance of a dreamcatcher tattoo?
Dreamcatcher tattoos are often seen as a symbol of protection, particularly against bad dreams or negative spirits. They can also represent the idea of following one’s dreams.

Q: What do tree tattoos symbolize?
Tree tattoos can represent many different things, such as strength, growth, and longevity. They can also represent the idea of being grounded and connected to nature.

Q: What is the symbolism behind a phoenix tattoo?
Phoenix tattoos are often seen as a symbol of rebirth, renewal, and new beginnings. They can also represent the idea of overcoming adversity and rising from the ashes.

Closing Thoughts: Thanks for Reading!

We hope this article has helped you better understand some of the common symbols and meanings behind tattoos. Remember, the symbolism behind a tattoo can be personal and unique to each individual, so don’t be afraid to create your own meaning. Thanks for reading and be sure to check back for more articles and updates in the future!