Most Popular Tattoo Symbols[edit | edit source]
The single most requested tattoo design. The most popular tribal designs are Maori, Haida and Polynesian designs. There is also great interest in Native American tattoo designs. The term "tribal" covers an astonishing array of tattoo design possibilities, from the traditional tribal tattoos of indigenous and aboriginal cultures, to the latest in graphic design for the body.
The star is a tattoo symbol popular with both men and women, and the Nautical Star tattoo design has gone through a strong revival. In many cases the meaning of a particular star may depend upon the number of points and the orientation of these points.
An angel is a symbol of devotion, spirituality, faith, and signifies a relationship with God. Angels can be intended as a figure of guidance and protection. It is often used as the centerpiece of a tattoo that is used as a memorial.
There is perhaps no religious icon or symbol more universally recognized than the Christian Cross. Religious symbolism is prominently featured in several tattoo design genres, both ancient and modern, and in fact could be argued that all traditional tattooing among indigenous peoples has a strong spiritual element. See also Celtic Cross, Maltese Cross and Iron Cross.
The wing design is often infused with inspirational or spiritual significance; the angel motif is a symbol of guidance and protection. For those who dream of soaring the skies, the wing symbol takes on the feathery aspect of a bird. Popular with both men and women.
The distinctive school of Maori designs is the favorite in tribal tattoo designs. Maori tattooing is distinguished by the use of bold lines and the repetition of specific design motifs that are prominent both in the tattooing or "moko" of the Maori people of New Zealand. Original Maori tattoos -- Ta Moko -- were specific to an individual and contained extensive personal and family history in the designs.
A true classic tattoo design that shows the influence of Japanese and Chinese culture in Western tattooing. The dragon is a culturally far-ranging character whose apparent bad temper should be interpreted as simply amoral, neither good nor evil. Popular with both men and women.
The phoenix is another tattoo design that illustrates the enduring popularity of Japanese tattooing traditions. But the phoenix is also a design with a rich mythological history in both Eastern and western cultures. Tales of the phoenix appear in ancient Arabian, Greek, Roman, and Far Eastern mythology. In both Greek and Egyptian tales, the phoenix represented the sun, dying in flames at the end of the day and rising each morning.
A generally feminine tattoo design choice and a perennial favorite. It's ranking shows the growing influence that women have in tattoo culture. Even so, the Butterfly is not entirely the exclusive domain of the feminine. The Roman Emperor, Augustus, took it as his personal symbol, and the warrior priests of the Mexican Popolucas peoples sported the Butterfly as a motif on their breastplates. Their Butterfly was also the symbol of fire. Delightful, magical and transformational, the Butterfly reminds its admirers of the mystery of nature and the richness of human imagination.
A tattoo design with a long history in story, myth and folklore. Fairies in literature are often the personification of human wishes and desire in the form of little people with magical powers. As a tattoo design they can be symbols of youthful innocence and a desire to retain a child-like imagination, wonder and awe. Most popular with women and a fairy is a design with a strong magical element.
The swallow & bluebird are another tattoo design that shows the enduring popularity of nautical tattoo art. In ancient times, the swallow was associated with the 'imperishable' stars and the souls of the dead. According to Greek legend, secret texts told how to transform into a swallow, something the ancient deities liked to do. The swallow is a tattoo design that is popular with both men and women.
The influence of the power of the Lion's symbolism can be seen in it's representation in both Chinese and Japanese art and mythology, as well as, both Eastern and Western cultures. The Lion was often used as a symbol of Royalty, as in many cultures it was considered the "King of the Beasts". In early Christianity, as Jesus was seen to be the "King of Kings", he was often represented by a Lion, and a Lion was the symbol of St. Mark. The Lion or Leo, is one of the twelve signs of the Zodiac and represents the Sun.
The Sun as a tattoo design is a reflection of the Sun's profound symbolic nature in most cultures around the world. As a tattoo design and symbol, a Sun represents fertility, vitality, passion, courage and eternally renewed youth, light and knowledge. The Sun was a symbol of both royal and divine powers, adopted by both secular and religious authorities. The sun as a tattoo is very popular with both men and women.
Celtic tattoo designs are primarily a genre of complex interwoven lines representing knots, mazes, spirals and other figures. The intricate interweaving showing no beginning and no end, reflective of the cycles of the seasons and of life. Celtic knot designs while at first and foremost decorative on the surface, are at their roots very culturally significant and deeply symbolic and are a distinctive way for people to express their Celtic heritage.
Kanji tattoos account for nearly 20% of all Internet tattoo design searches. The idea of expressing a soulful feeling with such an exotic symbol is highly attractive. And the pitfalls are legend. For starters, kanji is not a traditional Japanese tattoo. It’s virtually unknown in Japan. But it’s a tattoo style that has become popular among Westerners who believe that kanji identifies them with an Eastern philosophy based on geishas and cherry blossoms.
- Japanese Tattoo Symbols
- Tattoos in Japan
- Mythological beasts and monsters: Dragons, Kirin, Baku, Foo Dogs, Hō-ō (鳳凰, Phoenixes)
- Animals: Birds, Koi (Carp), Tigers, Snakes
- Flowers: Peonies, Cherry Blossoms, Lotuses, Chrysanthemums
- Other plants: Bamboo, Maple leaves
- Characters from traditional folklore and literature, such as the Suikoden
- Images of the "Floating World" inspired by ukiyo-e prints: geisha, samurai
- Buddhas and Buddhist deities such as Fudō Myō-ō and Kannon
- Shinto kami (deities) such as tengu
- Backgrounds: clouds, waves, wind bars.
- Tattoos in Japan
- Haida Tattoo Symbols
The Haida are renowned around the world for the beauty and complexity of their art and images. The bold lines of the Haida designs make them uniquely suited to be reproduced as tattoos. The Haida originally used tattoos to depict family Clan Crests. Haida crests chronicled important mythological events in the family or clan's history - usually when an ancestor encountered a spiritual being in a supernatural context. The Haida were once one of the most heavily tattooed indigenous people in the world, and were one of very few groups in recorded history to tattoo in colour, using red as well as black.
Tiger tattoo designs are popular in both Eastern and Western tattoo genres, and have a rich history in myths and legends in many cultures. Tigers are associated with power, ferocity, passion and sensuality, beauty and speed, cruelty and wrath. See also, Japanese Tattoo Designs
A tattoo design with a rich history that crosses both gender lines and design lines. The Rose in the West represents what the Lotus does in the East. A symbol of love, but especially of a love that is pure. Because of the rose's beauty, scent and shape, it is the ultimate floral symbol. Of all the flower tattoo designs, the rose is still the most popular and the most requested. Interestingly, the rose is nearly as popular with men as it is with women. See also, Flowers
Heart tattoos have been popular for well over a century. Heart tattoos were very popular with Servicemen in WWII; tokens of their loved ones that accompanied them and were a constant reminder of what they were fighting for. See also, Sacred Heart
Mankind has been fascinated by the zodiac for millennia, since we first connected the dots between stars and named the constellations. Searches for Zodiac symbols encompasses both the West and the East, with people searching for Zodiac symbols that represent both the classic Greek / Roman Zodiac and the Chinese Zodiac, as well as, searches for Zodiac signs rendered in Japanese Kanji.
Represented in a number of tattoo design genres, and a classic tattoo design that has been popular for generations of tattoo enthusiasts. Nautical Tattoos with the Jolly Roger, or famed pirate's flag of Skull and Crossed Bones, Old School Tattoos, New School Tattoos, Bio-Mechanical and every School of Tattoos in between. In Buddhism and Hinduism, skulls can be seen in their religious art.
Flowers as tattoo designs and symbols can be far more than just pretty pictures on pretty girls. Flowers are the embodiment of nature and concise symbols of the cycle of birth, life, procreation, death and rebirth. Specific flowers have come to represent a myriad of different beliefs in different cultures. Flowers figure prominently as design motifs in most tattoo design genres. See also, Chrysanthemum, Daisy, Lily, Lotus, Rose.
Pretty girls never go out of style especially when it comes to those classic tattoo pin-up girls. pretty girls and tattoos never go out of style. A pinup girl is a woman whose physical attractiveness would entice one to place a picture of her on a wall. The term was first attested to in English in 1941; however the practice is documented back at least to the 1890's. Today pin-up girls are just as popular with women body art enthusiasts as they are with men. See also Betty Page
As a tattoo symbol, the crown doesn't just mean the right of one person to command another. The crown tattoo symbolizes an individual's sovereignty over their own life, feelings, thoughts, and actions. The crown symbolizes self-control, and is a reminder to use power and authority wisely and justly. Many groups have used the crown to symbolize the power and authority to lead or command. When it is combined with a cross, one of the meanings of the crown is "victory," and the cross symbolizes Christianity.
The eagle tattoo is a typically male design that crosses over a significant number of tattoo genres, and the influence of the eagle in American tattooing cannot be underestimated. For freedom lovers everywhere, the Eagle's ability to fly to the tops of mountains and swoop silently into valleys makes it the unchallenged symbol of a free spirit. The influence of the Eagle in American tattooing cannot be over-estimated, especially within the military and patriotic service tattoos genres