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Aramaic Tattoos 101

Updated on January 17, 2010

Tips For Getting The Best Aramaic Tattoo

Aramaic tattoos are gorgeous and meaningful, they look fantastic with tribal motifs and they are definitely unique! Every day at Aramaic Designs we hear from people who say they have wanted this Aramaic tattoo for years, whether they are expressing a deep religious conviction in their flesh, commemorating a joyous event, or memorializing a loved one. How irredeemably tragic when a symbol with so much value to the wearer is not only botched, but permanently scarred into their bodies! Worse still: how common it is.

No need to panic. It doesn't take feats of strength to ensure you get the perfect tattoo. Read on and you'll be set:

Learning Aramaic

First, Read Up On Aramaic - Aramaic Resources

Chances are, you already know something about Aramaic or you wouldn't be looking for this tattoo (although, even if you don't, Aramaic looks pretty cool, so who could blame you?). Nevertheless, the surest way to get the perfect tattoo is to do your homework. For instance, did you know that Aramaic is not just one language, but a whole family of languages? Only one of those languages is "the language of Jesus," so if your faith inspired you to get this tattoo, you'll want to perk up. The following sites are clearinghouses of information on all aspects of Aramaic, followed by the contents of the Aramaic Blog, just to be sure that you're set:

If your translator doesn't really know Aramaic than this is all Greek to them!
If your translator doesn't really know Aramaic than this is all Greek to them!

Second, Know Your Translator

Don't be shy, interview your translator! This goes just as much for volunteer translators and even for stock tattoo design ebooks or packages: if you're going to put this on your skin, you need it to be accurate, and it can only be accurate if the person doing the translation knows their stuff. Ask the following questions for starters:

1. What dialects of Aramaic can you translate? How do you know them? (A clue: if they claim to be a native speaker of the language of Jesus, they just threw up a whomping huge red flag. No one alive today is a native speaker of the dialect Jesus spoke.)

2. How did you learn Aramaic? What are your credentials/experience?

3. Is the person you are speaking with the actual translator?

4. Are there any restrictions on what you can translate? (Clue: if they will only translate individual words or "translate" specific documents like Bible verses, that indicates that they don't know Aramaic grammar. If they don't know Aramaic grammar, the "translations" of single words are probably straight from a dictionary, or from the Aramaic New Testament if it'd a Bible verse. Save yourself the money, those are available free online or, for the same price or less, you can get a real translation elsewhere.)

5. The biggest red flag of all: Anonymity. If your translator hides behind anonymity, how can you verify anything they tell you? What recourse do you have if they pass you a bad translation?

Why so mad?  Because this tattoo calls the wearer's wife a man.
Why so mad? Because this tattoo calls the wearer's wife a man.

Check Twice, Bleed Once!

Get A (Free) Second Opinion

No matter how you got your translation, find someone reputable and have them look it over. This is especially true if you bought your translation: you'll want your money back if it's wrong. Steve Caruso, translator for Aramaic Designs, has been offering free Tattoo Translation Verifications since before he opened his business, way back when he ran AramaicNT.org alone. Just email him at aramaicdesigns@gmail.com with the following information to receive your verification:

1. The translation image.

2. The English you were looking to have translated, with any relevant grammatical information such as gender.

3. The script and Aramaic dialect you requested from your translator. (Different dialects can be mutually unintelligible, so we need to know the dialect you were looking for or it will take twice as long to check.)

4. The translator you received it from. This is essential because it's through tattoo translation verifications that Steve keeps track of the good guys and the bad guys in order to warn your fellow customers.

You may also be able to find a Rabbi, Syriac Orthodox priest, native speaker, or professor willing to double-check your translation, but be sure to ascertain that they know the dialect you were looking for. If you were looking for Old Aramaic, neither the priest nor the "native" speaker would recognize it.

Last of all, you can always pay another translator to check for you. Better to check twice, bleed once!

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