Over 40 of the Most Popular Tattoo Design Symbols and Meanings Explained.
Have you ever wondered about some of the most popular tattoo designs? Are you wondering about their significance? What they are meant to represent? There are a lot of symbolic meanings in tattoos.
This list is a collection of some of the most beautiful and meaningful tattoo designs, and the different meanings behind them.
Let’s take a look at ideas for over 40 different tattoo designs that tell a story and reveal your personality.
A tattoo is a permanent piece of body art, so the meaning behind it will stay with the person for the rest of their life.
This is why so many people choose to get tattooed in order to express their thoughts and feelings, to commemorate certain events in their lives, and to give their loved ones a way to connect with them for the rest of eternity.
Everyone’s reasons for getting a tattoo, and their individual meanings and motivations are unique to them.
Tattoos mean different things to different people,but today we’re going to take a look at some of the most common meanings and symbols associated with tattoos.
Whether you have your own meaning and personal reason for choosing a particular design, it’s still important to know what the general meanings of that tattoo is considered to be, and whether that resonates.
After all, this tattoo design will be with you for the rest of your life
If you are thinking about getting a tattoo, this is the article for you. We have collected the most beautiful and meaningful tattoos to inspire you.
Some of these are great for subtle small tattoos while others can be made into a much bigger statement tattoo.
Care for your meaningful tattoos with professional tattoo aftercare. Using Amazon voucher codes you can save on high quality tattoo aftercare products to keep your tat looking and feeling its best.
Here are 40+ gorgeous tattoo designs, who’s meanings run much deeper… ready – tattoo enthusiasts, let’s go
1. Semicolon tattoo
The semicolon tattoo is one of the most popular small meaningful tattoos.
The meaning of this tattoo is linked to mental health issues, with some linking it more specifically to suicide survival.
The meaning of the semi colon is that your story could have stopped here – but it didn’t. When you could have chosen to end a sentence, but instead you chose to keep going.
This symbol is linked to the semicolon project ; your story isn’t over, who raise awareness of mental illness.
“A semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life.”
2. Ampersand tattoo
The meaning of the Ampersand is “and” this has a number of meanings, one of which is connection and togetherness – particularly if you get this as a matching tattoo with a significant other.
The other meaning is to indicate that there is always more to the story.
An ampersand makes a gorgeous simple design, it’s a lovely tattoo for those who like the small and understated.
Carefully choose your font, for your ampersand tattoo to have the most impact.
3. Anchor tattoo
The anchor represents stability and peace. This is one of the most popular traditional tattoo designs, often associated with sailors but it runs deeper than that.
When used as a matching tattoo, it has the meaning of reminding each other that they are your anchor, and that you ground each other – which is so beautiful and reassuring.
4. Butterfly tattoos
Butterflies represent transformation. From a caterpillar into a butterfly, this animal represents undergoing a radical glow up and may resonate if you have been through tough times and come out stronger.
We have put together a huge collection of butterfly tattoos, in order to go deeper into the meanings when combined with different flowers, or when the butterfly is a different color and so on.
You can add layers to your design and make it even more meaningful and personal to you, as well as more beautiful.
5. Feather tattoos
Feather tattoos, like birds, represent freedom. We both have matching feather tattoos to represent friendship.
Feathers also have significance in Native American Culture
You can explore more feather tattoo designs and their deeper meanings here
Star tattoos represent ambition, adventure and hope. These are also one of the most popular tattoo symbols for friendship tattoos, as they can be done quite small and in subtle locations like your ankle or wrist.
Star tattoos can be combined with some of your favourite song lyrics like “you drew stars around my scars” (Taylor Swift)
Check out more star tattoos from the nautical star, to constellations and more here
Sun and Moon Tattoos
7. Heart tattoo
At it’s core, the heart tattoo is a symbol of love – most commonly romantic love. Many people like to combine this with their partner’s name, as one of the most traditional tattoos.
A small heart is one of the most popular minimalist tattoo ideas.
8. Viking tattoos
There are many powerful symbols in norse mythology, passed down from the ancient times of the Vikings.
The Viking inguz symbol or rune means “where there’s a will there’s a way”
The Viking symbol “chevron” means “create your own reality”
Check out way more Viking tattoo designs here, along with the meanings of different runes.
9. Rose tattoos
Whether you get a red rose, a black rose, or a mandala rose sleeve with elaborate designs, or a tiny understated flower, the rose is a symbol of beauty.
Each colour of rose has a slightly different meaning, and in tarot the rose is a symbol of balance
Whether subtle or bold, rose tattoos are one of the most popular tattoo designs.
You could also consider other types of flowers, take a look through this list of flowers with meanings of self love for inspiration.
10. Lotus Flower tattoos
The lotus flower has a deep meaning, and is the symbol of enlightenment in Buddhism.
Lotus flowers grow in muddy waters but despite that, they remain clean and pure.
This is a popular choice for those looking for spiritual tattoos that reference rising from hard times and thriving despite difficult circumstances.
11. Arrow tattoo
Arrow tattoos symbolise finding direction.
Arrows are also said to symbolise strength, due to the connection with hunting and being a powerful weapon.
This combined meaning could represent you as a strong fighter or warrior as you find your own direction in life.
The arrow tattoo is often combined with line tattoos, and has a similar minimalist vibe.
Check out these ideas for two line tattoos, and discover their meaning.
12. Harry Potter Always Symbol tattoo
Also known as the deathly Hallows symbol, this popular motif from the Harry Potter fandom is made up of a vertical line and circle enclosed by a triangle.
The sign represents the three legendary Harry Potter artifacts: the Elder Wand, the Resurrection Stone and the Cloak of Invisibility. Together these three things were considered the key to immortality.
13. Wave tattoo
A wave tattoo symbolises a deep connection with the ocean, or with water in general.
It can also represent peace and calm – a wave is a reminder to let go and go with it, let yourself to swept away.
14. Eagle tattoo
The eagle tattoo on the chest is an ancient symbol of manhood. This is normally seen as a very masculine tattoo – although there is no reason why both sexes can’t go with it.
Some of the meanings of the eagle tattoo include power, dominance and freedom.
15. Cherry Blossoms tattoo
Cherry Blossom also called Sakura is significant in Japanese culture.
As a tattoo, this is often said to represent transience because these gorgeous flowers bloom and don’t last for long.
The cherry blossom tattoo is a reminder to appreciate beauty before it passes, and live in each moment.
16. Tribal tattoos
The meaning of tribal tattoos can vary from culture to culture, depending on the design.
With this category of tattoo design, it’s worth researching very well to make sure you understand the significance of the tattoo design that you are choosing.
Tribal tattoo designs are popular with both males and females
17. Om tattoo
The Om symbol is significant in Hinduism, with it’s meaning referring to eternal bliss.
As the om symbol is a religious tattoo with deep cultural and spiritual meanings, again this is one where you want to research and make sure you understand what you are getting inked on to your body.
18. Tree of Life tattoo
The tree of life is a Kabbalistic symbol (from Kabbalah) although it is used in many traditions.
The tree of life represents a connection to everything – interconnectedness with everything in the universe. This is a deeply spiritual concept which is shared among many beliefs.
The tree of life is also becoming a very popular breastfeeding tattoo
19. Moon tattoos
The moon is symbolic in many belief systems and spiritualities.
The symbol of the crescent moon with the star is seen as a symbol of Islam, and in spirituality the moon is seen as a feminine symbol.
A tattoo of the phases of the moon represents the passing of time, and that change is inevitable. It also relates to immortality and eternity, as this cycle keeps on going.
Moon tattoos also represent a connection to nature and the natural world, and are considered quite witchy.
20. The Sun tattoos
The sun is a powerful symbol of truth and light.
This tattoo is also popular with fire signs in the Zodiac, particularly Leo because the lion’s planetary ruler is the sun.
A sun tattoo can also represent coming out of darkness, and that after a dark night the sun always rises.
You could choose to combine both the sun and the moon in your tattoo design.
This is also a popular and beautiful meaningful idea for matching tattoos – where you get one each, one person takes the sun and the other takes the moon.
21. Dots tattoo
Dots tattoos are one of the most simple minimalist tattoo ideas.
A single full stop dot symbolises the end of one phase and the start of another.
Three dots in a line represents ellipses, this grammatical tattoo indicates that the sentence is not fully complete. This relates to an unfinished journey or the concept of continuance.
22. Angel Wings
Angel wing tattoos are used to honour loved ones who have passed, or can refer to guardian angels.
This is a symbol of love and protection. It’s also said to represent purity and for some this tattoo has a religious meaning and significance.
23. Dragon tattoo
These legendary and mythical creatures inspire our imagination and awe.
A dragon tattoo is said to symbolise power, fierceness, strength and wisdom.
For some it also represents a connection to childhood and a love of fantasy.
24. Celtic Circle
The Celtic Circle or Celtic knot has no beginning and no end. This symbolises eternal life, and is popular with people who have Irish heritage or roots.
The lines in the Celtic knot weave between each other in a single unbroken flow.
This meaning of eternity can be linked to loyalty and friendship. Read more about the meanings of Celtic symbols here, and find more ideas for tattoo imagery with a Celtic inspiration.
You may also like these celtic cross tattoo ideas, which also fit with Irish heritage.
25. Trinity Knot tattoo
This has a similar aesthetic to the Celtic knot, with interlinking designs.
In Celtic culture the three points represent the natural elements of earth, fire and water but many also choose this symbol for a Christian tattoo to represent the holy trinity in Christianity.
26. Infinity tattoo
The infinity tattoo has a similar meaning to the Celtic knot, with one unbroken continuous line which represents infinity, as the name suggests.
This is a much more minimal tattoo design, which has become very popular over the past few years.
This symbol can be combined with words or other designs to make it more personal and meaningful to the wearer.
27. Deer tattoos
A stag or deer tattoo is another tattoo design which is swiftly gaining more popularity.
Geometric deer tattoos are especially popular as they are so striking.
Deers represent gentleness and sensitivity.
This is also a popular Harry Potter tattoo due to the stag patronus which has significance in the Harry Potter universe.
28. Dreamcatcher tattoo
A dreamcatcher is an amulet to catch all of your bad dreams, and negative thoughts. Hence why this tattoo represents protection and safety.
Dreamcatcher tattoos often incorporate feathers, and has a connection to Native American indigenous culture.
29. Zen Circle tattoo
The Zen Circle aka Enso is an unfinished circle, which is representative of enlightenment and strength.
This tattoo design also represents the beauty of imperfection.
30. Cross tattoos
This is the most popular religious symbol tattoos for Christians. The cross is the most iconic christian symbol, representing Jesus sacrifice and God’s love for mankind.
Whether you choose to go bold or subtle with your cross, this is one of the religious tattoos that has a deep spiritual significance to committed Christians of all denominations.
31. Music notes
Quite simply, a music note tattoo indicates a deep connection to music or a passion for music.
These can be designed in a minimalist way like this single note, or combined into something larger along with meaningful lyrics.
32. Roman Numerals
Roman numeral tattoos are a simple way to mark meaningful dates onto your body, in a beautiful and minimalist way.
If you need a guide on the meanings of roman numerals, check out this handy list below
33. Paper Plane
This contemporary and minimalist tattoo design symbolises travel and adventure.
34. Heartbeat tattoo
The heartbeat or pulse tattoo symbolises life. This can be used as a reminder to celebrate life and live to the fullest.
You can use this tattoo to commemorate loved ones, using the heartbeat from their real EKG. Some people use their baby’s heartbeat for a meaningful tattoo.
35. Snowflake tattoo
Snowflakes symbolise individuality and uniqueness as each one is different and beautiful, just like us humans.
36. Laurel Wreath tattoo
The laurel wreath is a victory symbol. It may look delicate but the meaning behind this tattoo is powerful and strong.
You can go for a whole laurel crown, or just a few laurel leaves for a minimalist tattoo design. The meaning will remain the same.
Also check out the meaning of the olive branch tattoo, or olive wreath tattoo which has a similar vibe.
37. Mountain tattoo
The mountain tattoo is linked to a desire for adventure.
It’s also a reminder that no problem in life is insurmountable.
38. Bird tattoo
Just like feather tattoos, bird tattoos represent flight and freedom. They can also indicate a connection to nature.
Check out the meaning of the swan tattoo too, and get some inspiration for tattoos featuring this most majestic of birds.
39. Meaningful word tattoos
Words are one of the most popular types of tattoo design. What easier way is there to convey your meaning, than to write it in words.
The font you choose can have a big effect on the overall look and feel of your written word tattoo, and these can be made as big or small as you feel comfortable with.
These type of tattoos are super meaningful, whether you choose to go with just one word or with something longer.
Check out our inspiration for quote tattoos, with examples and ideas for the most meaningful words to use.
You might also like words in another language, if that language or culture has significance to you.
Check out our list of beautiful Arabic tattoos with meanings
40. Mandala tattoos
Mandala is the Sanskrit word for circle, and these intricate tattoo designs are popular with those who appreciate beauty and detailed designs.
A mandala is said to represent the spiritual journey, starting from the core and out through the layers.
Mandala tattoo are often incorporated with others designs, like flowers.
Mandalas are something that you can take further and keep adding, if you want to go with a full body tattoo then Mandala designs are a beautiful option.
41. Map Outline Tattoos
Like the mountain tattoo or the paper plane, a map outline represents adventure.
If you choose an outline of a smaller place such as a state or country this signifies the significance of that place and can be a reminder of home.
42. Bear Paw Tattoos
We have a whole post with a variety of bear paw or bear claw tattoo designs, each one with a slightly different meaning.
On the animal theme, you may also like these cheetah print tattoos too.
In conclusion, it may be true that the most beautiful tattoos are created with a combination of symbolism and personal meaning.
The tattoos are often created to remind the wearer of something that has happened in their life, or to reflect a certain personality trait or way of thinking.
The art of tattoo design is a great way to express yourself and your individuality, and there are many tattoo shops around the world that offer personalized tattoo designs, meaning that you can create your very own design and have it inscribed on your skin.
Always work with your tattoo artist to make sure that you come up with the best designs that you are happy with, and they are happy to create and feel confident creating.
If you enjoyed this blog post and list of tattoo ideas please go ahead and share with friends, or Pin to your Pinterest boards so the inspiration is always there when you need to.
We hope you found inspiration for a tattoo design that you love… go forth and get inked! Good luck
Anna is a Wales-based writer and graduate from SOAS University of London.
As the voice behind On Your Journey, she empowers women to embrace holistic well-being and spiritual growth through her expert insights into wellness and symbolism.
When she isn't writing thought-provoking articles, you'll find her busy crafting and raising her 4 children.