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Common Tattoos and Their Meanings

Updated on November 6, 2009

Star Tattoos

There are many different star designs, basic stars stand for ambition, goals, aims, enlightenment, knowledge and beauty. You could get a star tattoo at a new beginning in life, when you have a brand new goal, Or it could be done to celebrate a bright moment in your life. They could stand for your dreams or your choices. However, many different stars have many different meanings.


Shooting star:  Shooting stars represent a few moments that have left lasting impressions on your life. It could be a Relationship, an accident, Birthing children, etc. Shooting stars look gorgeous and are perfect to show the hidden importance of days gone by.

Nautical Star: Before the use of compasses, sailors and travelers used to find their routes with the help of the nautical star (north star). In fact they often got a tattoo of the nautical star to ensure that they do no lose their way! This tattoo signifies the will to create one's own path. It stands for protection and guidance.

Pentagram: The Five point star can have 2 meanings. If it is upward facing, it is seen as a sign of balance and protection. Consequently, a downward facing pentagram, stands for the Devil. Hence, it is often said that Devil worshipers have a downward facing pentagram star tattoo, to advertise their love for the Devil.

The Hexagram or the Star of David: The star of David is a very strong symbol in Judaism. It stands for the interaction between humans and the Divine. As per Paganism, it stands for "the blade and the chalice". It is the sign for complete humanity. The star of David is often used to maintain a balance in life.

Nonogram: A nine point star is fairly rare. As it is not very easy to draw, it is seldom chosen. The nonogram stands for achievement and stability. It is used to bring about and keep stability in life. It is quite mystical and since ages, has been said to have special powers!


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Skull Tattoos

 Skull Tattoos are very common and one of the most misunderstood tattoos.

Skulls can serve a number of symbolic purposes. The most common being of death and mortality. But, one can use the image of a skull to symbolize various things. Such as, Protection, Strength, Power, Overcoming death, Overcoming a tough time, A past life or major changes.

Although, at first glance they may appear to resemble a gothic, negative, or evil image, they do not always mean what they resemble. The meaning behind a word, is just as strong as a meaning behind an image.

Each person that chooses to have a skull tattooed on his/her body, has a reason a purpose, a means. Not every case is a skull meaningful, but in many, they can be.

Some people also like to balance out the ominous appearance with something a little lighter. For instance, flowers growing around or in the eye sockets of a skull shows a balance of light and dark, life and death.

Skull tattoos may also have significance for those in the medical field, or those who have suffered and survived accident or illness. These tattoos may include many features that are important to the wearer and are often very realistic in appearance.


Butterfly Tattoos

Butterfly tattoos are the most popular tattoos among women. Butterfly tattoos hold a unique fascination with the human race and have always been subject to artistic expression whether it’s in music, tattoos, paintings, etc. With its vivid colors, striking lines, and distinctiveness, most people can’t disagree with the beauty of a butterfly.

There are literally millions of butterfly tattoo designs. . Tribal style butterflies, Celtic butterfly designs, fairy butterflies, big bold butterflies, to small butterfly tattoo designs and everything in between.

Butterfly Symbolism

•Represents the fragility of life

•Transformation or change as well as love and joy



•A new life

•A new beginning

•Serves as a reminder to make changes when the opportunities arise

•The butterfly flight appears as though its dancing, a reminder not to take things so seriously

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Zodiac Tattoos

Zodiac Tattoos are another very common symbol seen printed on many different peoples bodies today.

People usually get zodiac symbol tattoos purely as an expression of their belief in the art of astrology.

Simple designs are common in zodiac symbol tattoos. Small symbols featuring the western zodiac signs (an arrow for Sagittarius, waves for Aquarius, etc.) lined in black are simple, stylish and easy to place.

Though simplicity is one option, many people choose to create much larger displays for their zodiac symbol tattoos. For instance a Taurean may use a strong and aggressive looking bull pressing through the skin with a determined look; or a Gemini might create a modest symbol of a set of cherubic twins embracing.

If a person is born on a cusp, they may choose to blend both of their zodiac signs together in a tattoo, thus symbolizing the energy of both signs.

Zodiac symbol tattoos are one of several ways a person can express their personal identity, and can show just one of many things that make them who they are. Though practically everything in life changes over time, a person’s birth and the stars will always remain the same.

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Cross Tattoos

 Cross tattoos are incredibly popular, and you don’t have to be a devout follower of any religion to have one on your skin.

 Irish, Scottish, and Welsh descendants often have a Celtic cross tattoo to show their pride in their heritage. The cross also symbolizes constant spiritual development..



With any of these cross tattoo designs you can add whatever you need to make it your own.

Some people decide to get a cross tattoo that also serves as an in loving memory tattoo. Tattoo artists can easily add a banner with names and/or dates to incorporate into your cross tattoo.

Another popular idea is rosary beads with the cross at the end. A tattoo artist could work wrapping the beads around your wrist.

The possibilities are endless.

Heart Tattoos

 Very common among both women and men.

Heart tattoos often mean love — love for another person, love for yourself, and if you mix this symbol with other items, love for a particular thing. This is understandable as the heart is a romantic symbol which is said to be at the root of all human emotions. It is also said to be the bearer of the soul and the mind.

Another example would be the ‘lock and key’ heart. This is used most frequently by married couples, but can also be used to signify a deep friendship, or the bond between parent and child.

Given that this design is meant to be the symbol of lasting love, many people choose to wear a design that is large, red, round and sporting the name of one’s love.

This trend was actually started with sailors who often placed the word ‘Mom’ in their heart tattoos.

Broken Heart Tattoos. This piece will show a jagged strike down the middle of the heart, and can be used not only to symbolize the loss of a lover, but as an indicator of your personal feelings towards the emotion of love in general.


Tribal Tattoos

 Tribal tattoos make up at least one third of all tattoo designs worn be individuals.

Symbolization varies by origin of the design. Whether the tattoo is worn for graphic design or personal reasons, tribal tattoos are definitely one of the most popular tattoos around.

marriage, rite of passage, animals represented by the totem, spiritual and even magical.

Certain tribes tattooed as a means of family standards. Family lineage could be traced among the exquisite and unique design of the tattoo that an individual wore across their face whereas many tattoos were given to represent puberty.

Native American which usually represents culture, ritualistic beliefs, spirits and nature to Polynesian which symbolize tradition, values, legends, and values of religious aspect. Hawaiian tribal symbols can be worn as identification, protection or mourning and Maori can be used for courage and usually consist of elaborate curves and distinct shapes.


Most tribal tattoos are done in black and should be colored evenly which can be very challenging. Attentiveness is needed when designing tribal tattoos with their swinging arcs and curves.

Whatever the reason a person might have to get tribal tattoos, the history is in the ink.

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Dragon Tattoos

 Dragon tattoos, Very common, are often used as a symbol of strength and power.

They can also be an emblem of spiritual and magical qualities.

These are very good reasons why the dragon is one of the best known mythological creatures around the world.

Although most dragon tattoos are colorful, they can also be done in black and shades of grey. Black and red is another great option, and is frequently seen in tribal tattoo designs.

The backdrop of dragon tattoos can be just as diverse as the dragon itself.

Flames, flowers and symbols of peace are frequently used. However, you can tell a story with a landscape. A medieval castle; emerging from a cave, or a Japanese woodblock-type background with rippling waves, mountains and colorful skies.

Black or highly colored; placed in a small area of the body, or covering whole portions of the body. Whatever the design, dragon tattoos can symbolize power, nobility, magic and a transcendence from normality.

It is often used as an expression of how we feel about our self, or how we would like to see ourselves — strong and free.


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    • profile image

      ken 3 years ago

      all these tattoos are horrible

    • sparkleyfinger profile image

      Lynsey Harte 3 years ago from Glasgow

      Great hub. I have a couple of tribal tattoos, as well as a skull rose, and a heart on my wrist. When getting them I can't say there was any particular symbolism in mind, I just thought they looked nice!

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      Jennifer  8 years ago

      Thanks for the tattoo lesson, it was very informative.

    • sisinphx profile image

      sisinphx 8 years ago

      this i relly good i love your page so much keep on doin your thing

    • sisinphx profile image

      sisinphx 8 years ago

      Very interesting! I accually learned a lot! Thanks, Tara!