Inspiration / Living

The Meaning Behind Popular Tattoo Symbols and Designs

By: Ludvig Hoel

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The Meaning Behind Popular Tattoo Symbols and Designs

Since tattoo symbols and designs can hold a variety of meanings, they are often chosen for personal, cultural, or symbolic reasons. From the popular viking tattoos, to letters from exotic places, the choices are endless.

So whether you are looking to expand your knowledge on the topic of popular tattoos, or perhaps are looking at inspiration for your next design, we have gathered a list of the most popular tattoos out there.

Hearts as tattoos

Many people choose a version of a heart tattoo to symbolize their love and affection, or as a tribute to a loved one. There are countless designs, sometimes combining hearts with other symbols on our list.

The meaning of a dove tattoo

The dove is a common animal in many cultures. It is often associated with victory, love and peace, or even the will of God. In the bible the first animal that Noah sees on the arc after the flood is a dove, representing hope and new beginnings.

Corpse bride tattoo

The Corpse Bride is a popular movie by Tim Burton, and people who choose this subject as part of their new tattoo will almost certainly be fans of the movie. It is also possible they just love the distinct art style that Tim Burton achieved with this iconic film classic.

Tribal tattoos

The historic origins of these bold tattoos can be traced back to the traditional Polynesian, Maori, and other indigenous cultures. Today, tribal tattoos are often chosen for their aesthetic appeal, rather than for any specific cultural or spiritual meaning.

While some people may choose tribal tattoos as a way to honor their heritage or pay tribute to a specific cultural tradition, others may simply appreciate the bold, graphic style of these tattoos.

Japanese or Chinese symbols

Many people from the western world choose asian symbols for their tattoos, as they like the shape of the letters, or enjoy being the only ones in their friend group who knows the actual meaning of the symbols. Similarly, while some Asians get tattoos in their own alphabet, many instead opt for English words.

The semicolon tattoo

In recent times there has been a trend of choosing very simple tattoos in order to highlight a social issue. One such symbol is the semicolon, which signifies an awareness or appreciation of life. Many suicide survivors choose this symbol in order to remind them that life goes on, much like a sentence does after a semicolon in texts.

The anchor tattoo

From Popeye the cartoon character, to the most hardy grandparent you have ever had. Many people throughout the ages have had an anchor tattooed on their bodies. This is often associated with sailors in particular, but in recent times it has also come to represent stability, and peace.

Butterflies as tattoos

A butterfly tattoo can symbolize transformation, growth, or a new beginning. These tattoos are often representing the metamorphosis that people go through in their natural life, similar to how a butterfly is changing from a cocoon, into a beautiful and mature butterfly.

Infinity symbols

The continuous lines that never break or stop at any one point, resembles an eternal love or spirit that will live on forever. An infinity symbol tattoo can also represent friendship, or a connection to a loved one.

Celtic knots

Much like the infinity symbol, Celtic circles and knots represent an ever present force in the universe. There can be many different meanings behind a celtic knot, whether it is to express love for a grandparent, a passion, or perhaps just a general appreciation of the culture or design.

Indian henna patterns

While henna is a temporary way of tattooing someone, these designs and symbols still carry strong meanings behind them. They are often used in celebratory ways, to commemorate a wedding or birthday, or to invoke good health and a happy life.

Inuit tattoos

The natives of Greenland used to tattoo their bodies in striking circular patterns, with stripes and lines running across various body parts. This trend slowly died out in the 20th century, but now young people are rediscovering these traditions and displaying them proudly once more.

Final thoughts

There are many other tattoo symbols and designs with a wide range of meanings. Some people choose tattoos that are meaningful to them personally, while others choose tattoos that are meaningful to their cultural or spiritual beliefs. And yet other people simply choose a particular symbol or design because they like the look of it, not because they have any deeper meaning. So while the meaning behind a tattoo often is personal and unique to the individual wearing it, it does not necessarily mean that the person you see with a particular tattoo has attached any meaning at all to the finer points of it.