Tattoo Designs & Symbols

Based on millions of tattoo design & symbol searches.

Alphabetical Listing of Tattoo Symbols & Designs

The Top Ten Tattoo Designs (with a couple of ties thrown in)

Maori tribal heart1. Tribal Tattoos - "Tribal Tattoos" still account for nearly a third of all tattoo design search requests, and the term "tribal" of course 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.

Of particular interest within the tribal tattoo design genre was the incredible interest shown in Maori and Haida tattoo designs.  In fact, Maori and Polynesian tattoo designs were so popular that they would have made the Top Ten Most Popular Tattoo Designs all on their own. The fascination with tribal tattoo designs just keeps chugging along, and the beautiful curvilinear Maori designs continues to attract those looking for distinctive body art.

Maori tattooing is a distinct school of patterns and graphic designs within Polynesian tattooing. While much of Polynesian tattooing is derived from straight-line geometric patterns (and thought to originate with patterns found on ancient Lapita pottery shards such as have been discovered in Samoa), a design fact which rose in part because the traditional Polynesian tattoo combs are best suited to linear designs, Maori tattooing is essentially curvilinear, and the mainstay of Maori designs are based on the spiral. It should be noted that renowned traditional Hawaiian artist Keone Nunes has demonstrated that it is possible to reproduce complex curved designs using traditional Polynesian tattooing implements.

Leo Zuluetta is the Godfather of the interpretation of modern tribal tattoo as graphic design for the human body, and his early work during the 80's continues to have enormous influence within modern tattooing to this day.

Haida tattoos are popular because of their beautiful representation of Haida family and clan crests, such as the Raven, Eagle, Bear, Killer Whale and many others, all of which are popular tattoo subjects in their own right.

Dove tattoo design meanings2. Dove Tattoos - The Dove is a symbol of the Holy Ghost in some Christian denominations and is often used in representations of the Baptism of Jesus Christ, and the Pentecost. Most will be familiar with the Bible story of the Great Flood, and of God commanding Noah to build an Ark capable of carrying two of every animal and bird.

According to the Bible, God then released torrential rains that caused the whole world to flood, and only Noah and his family and the creatures aboard the Ark survived. After many weeks at sea, Noah released first a Raven, then a Dove, to search for land. The Dove returned with an olive branch...

Crown tattoo design meanings2. Crown Tattoos - The crown has long been used as a symbol of royal power and authority. Like the sceptre, the crown is a visible badge of office, granting the wearer, it's possessor, the absolute right to rule. That authority to rule was often held to be divinely inspired. In the Christian tradition the garland of thorns placed on Christ's head during the ordeal of his crucifixion is know as the "Crown of Thorns". The centerpiece of any coronation of a new monarch is always the moment when the new King, Queen, or Emperor has the state crown placed upon their head. At that moment the power to rule is transferred to the new monarch.

As a tattoo symbol, the crown doesn't just mean the right of one person to command another. It symbolizes and individual's sovereignty over their own life, feelings, thoughts, and...

Cross tattoos and designs3. Cross or crosses -  Another  tattoo symbol with strong religious symbolism, and for many North America at least, and certainly at Christmas time, a symbol of faith, hope, belief and sacrifice. A cross, like the angel is also a favorite design choice when wishing to memorialize a family member, friend or fallen comrade. A memorial tattoo is a way to help keep the memory of someone we cherished with us always.

4. Lotus Flower / Water Lily - This tattoo design is as symbolically important in the East as the Rose is in the West. In fact, the Lotus and the Rose are the two most powerful of all the flower symbols.

The lotus figures prominently in the Creation Myths of Indian and China, and Buddha is said to have risen at the center of a Lotus Blossom. The Water Lily plays a similar role in Egyptian culture as the Lotus does in Asian cultures...

Cherry Blossom tattoo design meanings4. Cherry Blossom Tattoos - In Japan, cherry blossoms (sakura) are a metaphor for life. A brief, brilliant blooming, followed by the inevitable fall. Additionally, the cherry blossom is the Chinese symbol of feminine principal it also symbolized love in a language of herbs.

The cherry blossom tattoo is a symbol of female beauty and sexuality. The cherry blossom as a tattoo design is a powerful reminder that life is fleeting and we must live in the present and cherish every waking moment, for it may...

Kanji symbols and designs5. Kanji - Covers an entire genre of tattoo designs, but Japanese kanji account for nearly twenty percent of tattoo design searches. Kanji is one of the three common Japanese alphabets (the other two are Katakana and Hiragana). Kanji is a set of ideographic symbols (symbols that represent ideas) developed in China, and is extremely difficult to learn. This is mostly because there are well over a thousand Kanji symbols in everyday use in Japan, plus around another thousand that are... 

Star tattoos and designs6. Star / Stars - A perennial monthly favorite tattoo design all year long. This tattoo symbol and design was rarely out of the top ten searches for the past 2 years. This is no doubt a reflection of the rich nautical and maritime history of tattoo designs and symbols.

The nautical star - by far the number one star tattoo design search - is a very old modern tattoo, going back at least a century or more. Back in the days of yore, before modern navigation, sailors would navigate in part by the stars in the night skies, in particular the North Star in the Northern Hemisphere, and various other constellations of stars in the night sky. In the Southern Hemisphere, sailors had to use different stars and the Southern Cross became quite well-known. Sailors would then tattoo nautical stars on them because they relied on the stars to take them home, and being superstitious, they hoped their star tattoos would get them home safely as well. Compass stars are also popular for this reason. The nautical stars were originally used by sailors to help guide their way as they sailed through the night. They relied upon the stars to protect them and bring them home safely. A lot of soldiers get nautical stars for the same It is a symbol of protection and guidance. It was, and remains a very popular tattoo among sailors.

Stars are often encountered as symbols, and many cases the meaning of a particular star symbol may depend upon the number points it has, and sometimes the orientation of these points as well. As a light shining in the darkness, the star is often considered a symbol of truth, of the spirit and of hope. The symbol of the star embodies the concept of the pine spark within each of us. Their nocturnal nature leads stars to represent the struggle against the forces of darkness and the unknown.

Wing tattoos7. Wings -  Often depicted as angel wings, wings came in at number seven in the Top Ten Most Popular Tattoo Designs.

Wings as a tattoo design can often have inspirational or spiritual symbolism. In many myths, wings often have to be earned by their wearer. Wings, often associated with birds, represent speed, elevation, freedom and aspiration.  Wings associated with angels are spiritual, symbolizing enlightenment, guidance and protection - to be taken under the wing - and inspirational.

Wings associated with butterflies, dragonflies, fairies, mythological winged creatures like dragons, griffins, and the winged-horse Pegasus, have an element of the magical about them. As in alchemy and magic, wings can be transformational, allowing an individual access to a previously unattainable state. The presence of wings allows the combination of different elements, earth and sky, wind and fire.

Angel tattoo meanings8. Angel or Angels - Dropping to eighth from third last year. These tattoo designs of heavenly hosts, are popular all year round and are a powerful symbol of religious faith. Angels are often used to evoke protection as potent symbols of God's presence and as an expression of one's faith.

As a tattoo design, an angel is a symbol of devotion, spirituality and faith and signifies a relationship with God. An angel can be intended as a figure of guidance and protection. An angel is often used as the centerpiece of a tattoo that is intended as a memorial.

Butterfly tattoo designs8. Butterfly -  The ongoing popularity of the butterfly tattoo design shows the tremendous influence that women now have in tattoo culture as the design is overwhelmingly a feminine choice.  The butterfly tattoo design is a strong symbol of rejuvenation and regeneration, with overt feminine qualities. A Top Ten Tattoo Design of nearly every month in 2006 and 2007. And in the cold, dark months of winter, what more powerful symbol of Spring and new life than the butterfly?

Fairy tattoo designs and symbols9. Fairy - The Fairy, or fairie as a tattoo design, again shows the influence of women within tattoo culture. A fairy tattoo design can be as simple as a take-off on the often overpowering presence of corporate America in pop-culture - think Tinkerbell and Disney creatures - or it harkens back to a rich history of 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.

Swallow tattoo designs10. Swallow or Bluebird -  Another example of the great historical influence of nautical and maritime tattoo traditions.  The swallow or bluebird tattoo design is popular with both men and women, much as is the Nautical star.  Some people believe that the bluebird is actually supposed to represent a swift.

After a long, often dangerous journey at sea, the sighting of land birds, which the blue bird (or swift/swallow) represents, was seen as good luck. When a sailor had logged 5,000 miles at sea he would get a bluebird on one side of his chest. After logging 10,000 miles he would get a second bluebird tattooed on the other side! A pair of bluebirds is the sign of the well traveled.

Rose tattoo design meanings10. Rose Tattoos - 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 roses' 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.

A symbol of passion, chastity, and purity, the rose reigns supreme as the most beloved of flowers. The gift of a single red rose says, "I love you", while a thornless rose declares "love at first sight". Yellow roses are for joy, white for reverence, light pink for sympathy and admiration, and orange for enthusiasm. In medieval times, the white rose was the symbol of virginity. Red, of course covers every kind of love, both sacred and romantic.

Other popular tattoo designs were heartsflowers, Celtic designs, Japanese kanji symbols, Chinese characters, tigers, koi fish, Zodiac symbols, swords and daggers, pin-up girls, bears, bulls, skulls, snakes, spiders and scorpions.

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Alphabetical Listing of Tattoo Symbols & Designs

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