Tattoo Meanings

Tattoo Meanings 


Tattooing in one form or another has been practiced for centuries. Originating in Asia, the art of tattooing for religious meaning, cultural tradition or just for appearances has spread worldwide. While some tattoos are chosen because the wearer has an affinity for the artwork, many tattoos have a universal meaning that goes beyond the basic graphic. The following are a few examples of the meanings of tattoos that have a universal symbolism for wearers, artists and admirers.

Maori Tattoos

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Tatuagem Kirituhi Maori Tattoo

The Maori, the native tribe of New Zealand, are known for their distinctive facial tattoos. The tattoos are not restricted to the face, but usually take up a part or even all of the face. The deep grooves and patterns of Ta Moko, the name the Maori give the process of making the tattoos, are a storytelling device. People from the tribe who wear these tattoos are retelling the history of their family. In fact, the tribe considers people that are not Maori, but copy and wear the tattoos, phonies who are performing a form identity theft. If a person wishes to wear tattoos in the style of the Maori, they should seek out an artist who is familiar with the original patterns. An artist experienced with this style of tattoo can create one in the style of the originals without copying exactly.

Chinese Symbols Tattoo

Wearing Chinese symbols has become extremely popular in the Western world, however they are not popular in China. When a Chinese character is used for a tattoo, more often than not it is in the form of traditional Hanzi. The written language of Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau, Hanzi consists of over 40,000 characters. There is also the option of Simplified Chinese, created to further literacy in mainland China, Singapore and Malaysia. Although they look like delicate little works of art, each symbol has its own meaning. The most popular Chinese symbols used for tattoos are love, strength and family. People who wish to wear these beautiful tattoos must do their research and make sure they fully understand which character they choose. Although all the characters are beautiful to look at, sometimes a person requests a tattoo with a certain meaning, but for whatever reason, ends up with a tattoo that has a decidedly different meaning.

Teardrop Tattoo

The teardrop tattoo first appeared in the 1960’s. The meaning of this tattoo can vary depending on how it is drawn. An empty teardrop can symbolize a friend or a loved one that was killed, and now the wearer of the teardrop is looking for revenge. The teardrop is filled in with ink when revenge has been achieved. In prison, the teardrop can also be a warning to other prisoners that the wearer has committed a murder.

Dolphins Tattoo

The dolphin has been considered a highly social and intelligent animal with a special connection to the human race. Dolphin tattoos can have several meanings. Since dolphins have a playful nature, many times people with the same attitude and personality will get the tattoo to represent themselves. The dolphin can also represent being free or achieving a dream. Another common meaning of this tattoo relates to the mammal having a dual nature. It is from the sea but it breathes air and a dolphin tattoo wearer may be representing their own dual nature with their tattoo.

Butterfly Tattoo

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Monarch Butterfly Tattoo

The butterfly is an image that often represents change or a metamorphosis. A caterpillar changes into a butterfly and very likely the wearer of a butterfly tattoo has gone through a transition or a transformation. The butterfly can demonstrate a literal change, such as growing from a child to an adult, or a symbolic one, such as persevering through a difficult time.

Rose Tattoo

The rose tattoo is a complex and has many different meanings depending on the color and style of the artwork. Worn by both men and women, the rose can mean love or inner and outer beauty. Thorns added to the rose may serve as a reminder that beauty is only skin deep. A single rose with thorns can mean the pain a person had to go through to achieve true love. A rose that is black will mean love lost or even a memorial. White roses represent innocence and yellow can mean faith and hope.

Clown Tattoo

Like the rose, the meaning of the clown tattoo changes depending on how it is drawn. Clowns can be happy, sad, evil and jesters. While the clown tattoos can be straightforward, they can also represent humor, sadness and uncertainty. These tattoos are sometimes worn by gang members with a laugh now and cry later or a play now and pay later meaning behind the clown image.

Phoenix Tattoo

Richly symbolic in literature and mythology, the phoenix rising out of the ashes is a straightforward image in tattoo art. Resurrection, rebirth and reaching a new height is what the phoenix means in any context. When choosing the image of the phoenix, people tend to choose the phoenix in the process of rising up from the ashes.

Star Tattoo

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Star Tattoo

The star tattoo is one of the oldest, and it has behind it a rich history of meaning. To the sailors who sported the tattoo in the past, nautical stars represented safely navigating home. It has similar meanings now. The tattoo is popular with people in the armed forces and represents returning home safely. Another very different meaning for this tattoo belongs to prison culture. Each point on the star represents a year that a person has spent behind bars.

While there are commonly found meanings in tattoos, it is also necessary to note that sometimes the meanings of tattoos are nothing more than someone liked the way it looked in the book. As any person who sports a tattoo will agree, sometimes a rose is just a rose.


Wolves are seen as symbols of courage, loyalty and strength in Native American culture. The Romans and the Greeks considered the wolf a sacred animal and a sign of power. It is essential to note that the wolf is viewed as a bad omen in the Celtic and Chinese cultures.


The dove is one of those images that has a historic meaning that goes back for centuries. On its own, the dove represents peace. When two doves are pictured together, they can symbolize two people in a loving relationship. To demonstrate a fresh start or a rebirth, often a single dove with a palm branch will be used for the tattoo.

Zodiac Signs

The signs of the zodiac are used in tattoos when people identify with the attributes associated with their sign. There are positive and negative qualities, images, and colors associated with each of the 12 signs that can be incorporated into an individual’s zodiac tattoo.

Sun tattoo

Images of the sun are found throughout many different cultures going back to ancient times. Seen universally as a giver of life, a few of the many meanings behind the sun tattoo are strength, endurance, fertility, and rebirth. The sun can be drawn in several different styles depending on if it is representing a specific tribe or not. When the sun and the moon are drawn together, the meaning of the tattoo changes and it becomes feminine. Together, the sun and moon represent a man and a woman who are joined to each other spiritually.

Peace Sign

While the peace sign is a highly recognizable symbol, there are many ways that people who wear it can add variety to it and make it a more personal image. People with friends or family in the military will add a yellow ribbon or dog tags to signify their military connection. A peace sign can also represent that a person who is going through a rocky transformation or a tumultuous time is keeping their mind focused on the goal. Drawing around the peace sign or within the peace sign also turns the symbol into something more meaningful. Often people will request the flag of a country or a dove to make the picture more meaningful.


The tiger has often been considered the leader, or the king, of the animal kingdom. When a person chooses a tiger for their tattoo, they are using the image to convey strength and power. Tigers can also mean pride, beauty, passion, violence, and in some cultures, punishment for those who have done something wrong. The Japanese samurai use the tiger as their primary emblem for all of the same reasons that people choose to have the tiger tattoo. People who are interested in the tiger tattoo should bear in mind that white tigers are only the result of inbreeding, and thus all white tigers are born with handicaps of some sort. This information should be considered by anyone who wishes to have a white tiger tattoo instead of a standard tiger. Siberian tigers can reach a length of over ten feet and represent the greatest power among all the images of the tiger.

Octopus tattoo

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Octopus Tattoo


The octopus tattoo has a significant meaning to those who choose to wear one. Famous for being able to regenerate a lost limb, the octopus can represent a trauma that a person has successfully triumphed over in their past. Many cultures consider the number eight a mystical number, because it is the symbol for infinity. The octopus has eight legs and becomes sacred when it represents the nature of the sacred number.


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heart tattoo

The heart tattoo is one of the more famous images, and it is a longtime favorite for tattoo enthusiasts. At the turn of the century sailors often sported the tattoo with the name of a girlfriend, wife, or their mother as a lucky charm. The most obvious current meaning of this tattoo is love. Wisely or unwisely, it is often used to represent a romantic relationship when names are written on or around it. More obscure meanings include representation of the soul or the spiritual center.


Kokopelli was worshiped by Native Americans and can have a variety of meanings depending on the tribe. Commonly, the god is considered a representative of fertility and agriculture, and the overall theme is renewal and growth. He is also associated with tricks and has a fun loving persona. When Kokopelli is drawn, he is often holding what some believe is a flute and others say is a blowgun.


The rose may be in a category by itself, but many flowers have their own meanings when they are represented in a tattoo.


    • Pansy – Seen as the flower of remembrance and togetherness, this flower can be used when a tattoo is meant to be a memorial of a friend or loved one.


    • Cherry Blossom – Known mostly as a feminine tattoo, the cherry blossom represents beauty and love in China, and how brief life is in Japan.


    • Lily – The lily has many different meanings, and depending on the origins, it can actually have opposite definitions. In ancient Egypt, the lily symbolized fertility. In medieval times it was a sign of purity. The tiger lily often represents pride or wealth, and the calla lily can be an image that represents physical beauty. The orange lily can mean hate or anger.


    • Daisy – This is another flower that is closely associated with women and is more common for a woman to wear. They are usually drawn delicately and are small. The daisy represents purity, innocence in and loyalty in a romantic relationship.


  • Sunflower – A large and bright flower, the sunflower is usually drawn as it is in real life. It can often represent loyalty and strong admiration.
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 Tattoo Meanings

How to Find a Good Tattoo Artist

How to Find a Tattoo Artist

The decision to get your first tattoo is a monumental life choice. Tattoos are designed to be permanent so you must try your best to get it right the first time. Having a tattoo removed is generally more difficult and expensive than having one put on. Choosing both a design and an artist should be well thought out and researched decisions.

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Choosing a Tattoo Artist

Think about the reasons why you want to have a tattoo. Make sure you understand what the tattoo will mean to you personally. Next, think about tattoo designs you like. Have you admired ink on friends? Do you covet the tattoo of a famous celebrity? Has some ink on Pinterest captured your attention?

If your friends have had work done that you admire, ask for referrals. When talking with them, get specific reasons why they liked their artist. Did they feel the communication was good? Why? Did the artist design the tattoo or did your friends pick designs out of the artist’s portfolio? Was the studio clean? Was the artist punctual? Why did they choose the style of tattoo they have? What does their tattoo mean to them? If they were to get another tattoo would they do anything differently?

If the ink you admire is from a website like Pinterest, do your best to source both the style of tattoo and the artist. If the tattoo you desire is based on one a celebrity has, do the same. If you need to, approach strangers with ink you like and ask them questions. Most people are proud of their tattoos and happy to share information. You can also purchase tattoo magazines to research styles and artists.

Once you have found several tattoo artists you are interested in, look at their portfolios. Many portfolios are available online. If the artists you are interested in do not have online portfolios, take time to visit the shop where they work. Keep in mind that portfolios are designed to showcase an artist’s best work. Scrutinize the lines on the tattoos in the portfolio to make sure they are straight and smooth. Colors should be bold and filled in completely.

After you have viewed several portfolios, visit the shop where the artist works. While getting a tattoo, you are exposed to blood borne pathogens and risk infection. Make sure the shop is sparkling clean. Artists should wear latex gloves. Instruments should be sterilized with an autoclave. Waste should be disposed of by medically appropriate methods. Tattoos should be bandaged with proper medical materials not plastic wrap.

In addition, you should feel comfortable with the staff. They should be able to kindly and appropriately answer your questions. Ask the staff if you can observe the studio for half an hour or more. While observing, watch how clients are treated, instruments are handled and how the artist works. Ask the staff at the studio what aftercare is recommended for new tattoos.

Next, meet with the artist or artists you admire. This meeting should last twenty minutes or more. Bring a list of questions you have regarding getting a tattoo. Once your questions are answered, ask the artist if there is anything he or she can add. You may hire this person to put a permanent expression on your body. You must get all of your questions answered and feel comfortable with him or her.

Good communication with the artist is important. You should clearly understand him or her. In turn, you should feel like you are understood. You should leave this meeting feeling like you have an excellent working relationship with the artist.

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Here are some examples of questions you may want to ask the artist:
• What style of tattooing is your favorite? Why?
• Which tattoo in your portfolio is your favorite?
• Do you have a license?
• What is your artistic background?
• Where did you do your apprenticeship?
• How long have you been working at this location?
• Do you do custom work?
• If you are using an artist that has not been referred by a friend, ask the artist for references.

If you cannot find someone in your area whose work you admire, consider traveling to find the right artist. A tattoo is a permanent and you want your ink to be perfect. Traveling can be expensive, but the time and money are well spent if you get a tattoo you love. Five years from now you probably won’t remember how much your tattoo cost. If a word is misspelled on your tattoo, you will remember it forever.

Working with a Tattoo Artist to Create Your Design

First, take your time deciding what your first tattoo will mean to you. Consider where you would like the tattoo placed. Next, make a consultation appointment with the artist you plan to use. Do not go to this appointment empty handed. Bring in pictures, sketches and any other materials the tattoo artist can examine. To get inspired, you can visit your local art museum or a tattoo convention. If you live in a rural area, you can order magazines and research tattoo styles online. Even if you are not a good sketcher, create a rough outline of what you want and bring it with you to the appointment. The more you can bring to the artist, the more likely the artist is to give you the tattoo you desire.

After this appointment, the tattoo artist should have enough information to make a sketch of the design. Most of the time, the artist will schedule another appointment with you to review his or her sketch. If modifications are necessary, do not hesitate to ask for them. Be sure to ask the artist how much the design will cost. Keep in mind that it is customary to tip a tattoo artist for individual design work in addition to his or her fee.

Once you have decided on a tattoo artist, a design and a location for your tattoo, take a breather from the process to make sure you are ready. If you must schedule an appointment, choose a date that is at least a month in the future from your last consultation with the artist.

Tattoo Removal

Tattoo Removal: The Ultimate Guide

Regretting a permanent reminder of an old flame? Tired of the tattoo you got on an alcohol-induced whim in college? You are not alone. According to a 2006 survey in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 24 percent of 18- to 50-year-olds have tattoos and 17 percent of those people have considered having it removed. Tattoos have become a mainstay of personal expression in today’s culture and the industry of tattooing is growing. For some, their life view has changed and the expression printed in permanent ink on their calf does not fit with their current beliefs. For others, a change in careers has put the tattoo their forearm on the chopping block. These days, removing a tattoo is almost as popular as getting one.

Regardless of which method you use, removal of a tattoo is often a long, time consuming process. In essence, removal is a matter of endurance. Once you start the process, you should be prepared to continue until the tattoo is no longer visible. Thankfully, there is a high success rate.The expense of removal is usually correlated directly with the effectiveness. Higher costs equal better results. Options include temporary makeup, removal creams, natural solutions and laser surgery. The most effective option is laser surgery, but the cost can be prohibitive. Most of the time, removal systems will not make a tattoo fully vanish, but can make the tattoo significantly less visible. The best way to avoid regrets about getting a tattoo is to give careful thought to the design and artist before getting one. Except for makeup, the removal systems described below all remove pigment by breaking it into smaller pieces which can be absorbed by scavenger cells in the body.If you choose to use one of the removal systems below, be sure to take a picture of your tattoo in bright light. Once you start using a removal system, you will be able to compare before and after shots to see if the tattoo is fading.Covering a Tattoo with Makeup
If you are interested in covering a tattoo for a period of time like while visiting your in-laws or going to work at a conservative company, consider using tattoo cosmetics to temporarily hide your ink. You can camouflage a tattoo with makeup like Tattoo Camo. This makeup is a two part fix. The camouflage paste hides the tattoo and the sealer keeps the makeup from smudging or bleeding onto clothing. If you choose to use makeup, be sure to buy a remover designed to dissolve both the paste and the sealer without damaging the pigment of the tattoo. Several companies offer tattoo makeup which use a similar system as Tattoo Camo. Using paste and pencils, these products cover the tattoo with a thick concealer and then seal the makeup to the skin with another product. Other companies that offer tattoo makeup include Dermablend, Ben Nye, Mehron and Blood Mary. Reviews of tattoo makeup vary between users. Check out the latest reviews online before you buy, know the company’s return policy and keep your receipt.

Removal Creams
Laser surgery is your best bet for removal, but can be costly. If you cannot afford laser surgery, an alternative is to use a removal cream at home. Tat B Gone and Tattoo-OFF both offer creams that can be ordered online. These creams fade tattoos over time. The process typically takes several months to complete. The cost of the cream is around $75 per month of use. The average user will spend around $400.

Reviews of tattoo removal creams vary. Some creams contain chemicals that are harsh on the skin and can cause other skin problems or infection to occur. Creams must be used consistently and according to the manufacturer’s directions. Most of the time, creams are required to be applied several times per day. Users must dedicate themselves to use the product regularly to see results. Before purchasing a removal cream, be sure to check the company’s product guarantee and return policy.

Natural Solutions
Natural solutions are made from a mixture of ingredients you can purchase at your local grocery store and pharmacy. The results vary widely from person to person. These solutions take a long time to work and must be used habitually. In general, natural solutions need to be applied to the skin several times per day. Some folks choose to use this method to see if it will work before springing for the cost of laser surgery. Here are a couple of natural solutions to try:

• Make a mix of one part Vitamin E oil, one part aloe vera gel and one part apricot scrub. Apply the mixture to the tattoo and rub it into the skin with a gentle circular motion. Let the mixture sit on the skin for 10 minutes and rinse with cold water. Repeat three to four times per day.
• Make a mix of one part Vitamin E oil and one part aloe vera gel. Apply to skin in a circular motion using a Q-tip. Let the mixture sit for 10 minutes. Next, make a paste of equal parts turmeric and yogurt. Apply to the skin and let it dry. Once the mixture is dry, leave it on the skin for 10 minutes. Rinse the mixture off using cold water and a wet washcloth. Use this method one time per day.
• Mix one part sanding powder and one part aloe vera gel. Apply the mixture to the tattoo. Use a pumice stone to rub the mixture into the skin in a circular motion. Rub the skin gently for several minutes. Repeat two to three times per day.

People who use either of these solutions must take care to keep the area sanitary by washing with soap and water. There is a risk of skin infection and irritation with both of these options. It is important to keep the area clean and disinfected while using a natural solution. The best time to use a natural solution is when you have just gotten out of a hot shower and the pores of the skin are open. Results vary widely from person to person. If you do not see results after four weeks, you can safely conclude that the solution is not working.

Laser Surgery for tattoo removal

Laser surgery is the preferred and most successful method of removal. This procedure offers patients a bloodless, low risk option. Most dermatological surgeons state that full tattoo removal is impossible. However, most tattoos can be faded to a point close to invisible using laser surgery. When searching for a laser surgeon, be aware that most will not guarantee complete removal.

Tattoos come in all shapes, sizes and colors. The degree of success for a removal of a tattoo depends on factors ranging from the size, color and location of the tattoo to how quickly a person’s skin heals. Other factors to consider are how long the tattoo has been on the body and how the tattoo was applied. Newer tattoos are often more difficult to remove than older ones. Experienced tattoo artists typically tattoo pigment consistently and to an even layer in the skin which makes them easier to remove. Blue and black are the easiest colors to remove from the skin. Yellow and green are the hardest. Lasers function similar to sunlight. They are attracted to darker pigments. Since yellow and green are lighter colors and closer in color to the pigment of skin, lasers have a difficult time differentiating these pigments from a person’s natural color.

Over the last decade, lasers have become the favored method for removal. For most people, several procedures are required before the tattoo fades. The number of procedures one will need depends upon the size, scope and age of the tattoo. Lasers emit pulses of light. The type of lasers used in removal employ a technique called Q-switching, which refers to the type and duration of pulse the laser gives off. The light emitted from the laser moves through the skin to the layer where the pigment resides. The pulses break the pigment of the tattoo into smaller pieces. Once the pieces of pigment are small enough, they are absorbed by the immune system by scavenger cells. Typically, the procedure is not long and only takes a few minutes. Patients take three week breaks in between treatments to allow the immune system to work on removing the tattoo. Lasers are designed to target only the pigment of the tattoo. In general, lasers will not harm the natural pigmentation of the skin.

Laser surgery can be mildly painful. The pain has been described to feel like hot bacon grease hitting the skin or having a rubber band repeatedly snapped on the area during treatment. Doctors recommend that patients concerned with the pain of laser surgery take non-aspirin pain relievers such as Tylenol to relieve discomfort. Non-aspirin pain relievers should be taken an hour before treatment. Aspirin and anti-inflammatory agents are not recommended because they can cause noticeable bruising after the procedure. Some patients use an anesthetic cream prescribed by their doctor before the procedure. Other patients receive an injection of anesthetic into the tattoo before the removal procedure begins. Many people opt not to use pain relievers or anesthetics.

After the visit, the doctor will apply antiseptic cream and dressing to lessen the risk of infection. Patients can shower the same day, but the area should be washed lightly by hand and never scrubbed with a washcloth. During the entire removal process, it is important to keep the treated area clean to prevent infection. The area may sting similar to sunburn and be red in color for several weeks.

Most laser surgery procedures are successful. Risks include infection, lack of complete removal of the pigment and a small chance of scarring. The risk of infection is significantly reduced by the way the patient cares for the affected area. Some people experience a lack of pigmentation in the skin while others experience an abundance of pigmentation. Only 5% of people experience scarring or adverse pigmentation of the treated area.

Having a tattoo removed using laser surgery is typically more expensive than having a tattoo applied. The cost of laser surgery depends on the size and location of the tattoo as well as the number of treatments needed to remove it. The price can range from several hundreds of dollars into the thousands. If you are considering using laser surgery, make sure the person you work with is a medical doctor specializing in laser surgery. Ask to see before and after pictures from the procedures the doctor has done in the past. Be sure you understand the doctor’s expectation of success in removing the tattoo. Ask the doctor to give you an approximate cost and for the number of procedures he or she thinks will be necessary. Discuss any existing medical conditions you have with during your consultation to make sure you are a candidate for laser surgery. People with skin issues such as rosacea or eczema may not be a fit for laser surgery.

In the recent past, various medical procedures were used to remove tattoos. These procedures include:

Dermabrasion. Dermabrasion is a procedure where the skin is sanded to remove layers.

Cryosurgery. Cryosurgery is a process where layers of skin are frozen and then removed.

Excision. Excision is the process of surgically removing the skin with a scalpel. Depending upon the size of the tattoo, stitches and/or a skin graft may be necessary to heal the wound created by excision.

Though some of these methods are still practiced, laser surgery has become more popular than all of these medical procedures because it involves less risk of infection and scarring. Laser surgery does not cause bleeding and is considered less painful. If you are considering using a medical doctor to remove your tattoo, consult with a laser surgeon rather than someone specializing in the outdated treatments listed above.


 Tattoo Removal