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Hourglass Tattoo Designs and Meanings

Updated on June 27, 2014

Hourglass Tattoos

Even though the practical use of the hourglass - other than a novelty item - has long been removed from the pages of history, it continues to remain a powerful symbol of time, hundreds of years after it became obsolete.

That means artists continue to create art based upon the unique timepiece, largely because of the interesting shape and the way the sands dropping through the narrow neck separating the two bulb-shaped ends, reminds us all of our mortality and how time is the most scarce of all resources.

Of course those time themes offer all sorts of creative possibilities for those seeking to express their thoughts on time and the hourglass via tattoo art.

Hourglass Tattoo Designs

When contemplating time and how to express it in art, inevitably there will be the idea of the darker side of skulls and death, as it relates to time ticking down for all of us.

That isn't always necessarily done in a morbid way, but rather in a way that urges us to use our time wisely.

Included with that theme are symbols such as wings, signifying how time is flying by, or sayings like carpe diem, meaning "seize the day."

Some hourglass tattoo designs also attempt to say nothing, and simply show the shape of the hourglass and the sands trickling down the narrow neck. The idea there is that it speaks for itself.

But even in those circumstances there can be additional design elements such as roses to enhance the image. Those may even mean we should take time to "smell the roses," which is a phrase in America meaning to set aside time to enjoy some of the things or people in iife we have an interest in or are close to.

"The Clock is Ticking" Hourglass Tattoo

With this first hourglass tattoo design there are a couple of ideas embraced within the image. One is the obvious wording which sets up the meaning of this particular tattoo, which is to remain aware of the limitations time imposes upon us.

Second, is the bat wings, which points to time flying by, with the additional thought of approaching death, which the bat wings would be a symbol of.

The design of the hourglass isn't among the best of this tattoo gallery, but the twisted holder of the glass itself is a nice touch. It's the font and wings, along with the message, that make this the tattoo that it is.

The hourglass is used more as a backdrop to the message. But because body art is a visual medium, the art work could have been better. It was the right idea, but just not executed as good as it could have been.


Roses and Hourglass Tattoo

Here is an example of an hourglass with a couple of roses included in the design. I think this is a reference to "smell the roses," as mentioned earlier in the article.

This is an hourglass tattoo with a simple design; one that includes basic shapes and shadow, but conveying an important message for all of us. Again, it this could have done a bit more of a quality level, but it does give an idea as to where you can go with the hourglass as a tattoo theme.


Wings, Skull Hourglass Tattoo

Now we have a good example of a reference to time flying buy and how our lives on this earth are as a vapor in time.

It's a pretty cool depiction of the skull representing death on the top of the hourglass, suggesting when the sand there finishes falling, the time of our life is over.

i like the design of the tattoo but in my opinion the orange background could have been left out.


"See the World" Hourglass Tattoo

Next we have an hourglass tattoo inspired by a saying of William Blake where he encourages us to "see the world."

I like the eyes located in the top chamber of the hourglass, with an image of part of the world in the bottom. Take time to see the world is part of the message, displayed on a nice looking hourglass.

The message written on the ribbon banner was a creative way of communicating it visually.

Money in an Hourglass

It appears this is money being used in place of sand as a measure of time, probably pointing to the fact it takes time to make money.

What I like about this hourglass tattoo is the curved design of the piece, as well as the way it is made to appear as if you're looking into a piece of glass, as evidenced by the way it's may to seem shiny.

The way the wood appears to have light shining on it gives it a sense of authenticity as well.

Even though this design appears to be simple, it's actually more complex and sophisticated than a quick glance would imply.


Carpe Diem Hourglass Tattoo

Carpe Diem is a perfect message to include with an hourglass tattoo theme, as it embraces time and how we interact with it. It's an admonition to take advantage of the opportunities when they come across our path and not to squander the moment.

If we don't seize the day we won't grow or advance in our lives, leaving room for regrets. A tattoo reminding us of that is a great way to keep that as a strong reminder.

This is a much more ornate hourglass than the previous tattoo example, with a nice base and quality shadow to work well with the Latin message. Nice tattoo.


Hourglass Tattoo Designs

Hourglass tattoos are a terrific tattoo theme because of the creative way you can interact with it, as you can see in the tattoos above.

You can include script and other elements that reinforce the overall image and message that you're attempting to convey to those viewing it.

Overall, it's a fantastic option for body art, and one that will differentiate from the majority of tattoo designs you may run into.


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      Marybeth 2 years ago

      I incorporated a rose with my hourglass tattoo, the rose is losing a petal as i wanted to capture how life is fleeting