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Getting a tattoo shouldn’t be something to take lightly, as it’s one of the most meaningful personal decisions you’ll ever make. Most people look for a tattoo that’s not just aesthetic but also meaningful. Whether you’re looking for a new design to add to your collection, or update an old ink you’ve outgrown, we rounded up the most symbolic tattoos for men.
Throughout history, mountains have become associated with constancy, stability and eternity. When you’re on top of a mountain, you have a higher perspective and can see things from a loftier point of view. For adventurers, it can symbolize new adventures and journey to embark.
Mountains can also be a representation of hurdles and challenges in life, so having them inked on your body will show that you can rise above failures. After all, it takes a great effort to climb a mountain, so a tattoo will remind you of your inner strength and take you to the highest peaks.
Chess Piece Tattoo
Chess isn’t just a game—it has rich history and deep symbolism. We all know that it represents the battlefield where two armies fight until one is crowned victorious. A great thing, it also reminds us of the game of life, in which a chess piece tattoo will inspire you to keep winning. However, different pieces have corresponding meanings, so you might want to know which of them is meant for you.
Did you know that the game was inspired by the four arms of the Indian army—horses, elephants, chariots and infantry (soldiers fighting on foot)? Eventually, the game became westernized and the pieces became the king, queen, bishop, knight, rook and pawn. It’s said that the queen was a European interpretation of the raja’s vizier, which is a high-ranking political minister in the Muslim world.
Many opt for a king chess piece tattoo as a statement to their power and authority. After all, the king is the most important piece in the game and so are you in your world. In medieval Europe, the bishop stood for religion and church, so having it as a tattoo will show that spirituality is important in your life. On the other hand, a knight chess piece reminds you to be a protector of your family and loved ones.
A clock tattoo represents time, which reminds the wearer to seize each and every moment, and live life to the fullest. When combined with a skull tattoo, it can represent life and death since many have gone as the time passes.
Sometimes, we fantasize about going back in time to make things right, but it’s something we cannot control. In some contexts, it represents the concept of infinity, reality and existence. Some even opt for a clock tattoo to mark a special event in their lives.
World Map Tattoo
Back in the time, maps and compasses were the only navigation tools. It’s no doubt that traveling is one of the main reasons why people opt for this tattoo. If you’re a traveler, think of having a world map tattoo and put symbols on places as you visit them. Some designs include coordinates of a place, airplane motifs, as well as parallels and meridians.
A flame tattoo has several meanings, from being a symbol of hope to a representation of passion, light, creativity, life and even rebirth. Most of its symbolism stems from the characteristics of fire, such as giving light in the dark, or warmth in the cold. When combined with a heart design, it can represent a burning desire.
However, the flame can also be destructive and burn anything down to ashes, making it associated with pain and suffering. Some have experienced traumatic experiences, as if they’ve walked on fire. For this reason, a flame tattoo is a powerful choice for showing one’s courage and strength. If you want something that makes an impact, think of a flame tattoo in an armband design.
Dark and spooky, the skull is the most recognized symbol for death. In history, it has been used as a symbol of bravery and sacrifice in military, reminding soldiers of their “death and glory” motto. A great thing, it can also represent life and new beginnings.
If you want something more playful than macabre, think of sugar skulls in colorful and artful designs. In Mexico and Spain, the festival Día de los Muertos is a celebration of life, in which families honor their loved ones who have passed.
Greek Alphabet Letter Tattoo
There are 24 letters in the Greek alphabet and some of them are symbolic to different cultures. In Judaism and Christianity, the alpha (α) and omega (Ω), the first and last letters of the alphabet, are symbolic. In the Bible, it represents God who is the Alpha and Omega. Some incorporate the delta (Δ) letter in their tattoo to symbolize change. There are even slightly open delta designs to show that someone is open to change.
While the terms labyrinth and maze are often used interchangeably, they’re not the same. In a maze, there are choices in the pathway, where multiple paths branch off and some lead to dead ends. On the other hand, a labyrinth has only one path that leads to the center, so you can’t get lost. In Greek mythology, the labyrinth was designed to contain the Minotaur, a half-man half-bull creature.
Nowadays, a labyrinth is often used as a prayer and meditation tool. It’s said to represent one’s wholeness and spiritual awakening. In some contexts, it symbolizes the purposeful journey from birth to death. It’s no doubt that a labyrinth tattoo will remind you of your quest for spiritual growth, as well as guide you on your true path in life.
In the West, dragons are regarded as a symbol of evil and destruction. However, they’re seen as benevolent and friendly creatures in the East. In Korea, they represent the circle of life and are associated with the cyclical view of time. In Chinese culture, they’re a symbol of wisdom and good luck. If you want to embody courage, strength and independence in your body art, a dragon tattoo is perfect for you.
The Egyptian symbol of life, the ankh has gained significance in different cultures and regions. In fact, it’s used as a Christian cross by the Coptic Orthodox Church. Some also believe in the concept of afterlife and the symbol’s magical properties. While an ankh tattoo is meaningful on its own, some designs incorporate other symbolisms like scarabs and Egyptian glyphs.
There are several meanings associated with a sword tattoo, but it generally represents power, protection, courage, strength and authority. In legends, swords are associated with knighthood and chivalry. In Norse mythology, the sword of Freyr, a deity of sunshine, has the ability to fight on its own. Also, an unbreakable sword was used by Greek hero Perseus to behead Medusa. In Japanese mythology, certain types of swords have deep meaning and strong symbolism. In this way, swords have played a major part in mythologies around the world, a testament to their symbolism.
A mythical bird known for rising from its ashes, the phoenix is regarded as the symbol of rebirth and transformation. In some contexts, it’s also associated with the sun, which is a representation of power. Having the creature inked on your body simply means that you’ve overcome challenges and have risen as a stronger person.
Owls are enigmatic birds and they have varied meanings in different cultures. In ancient Greece, owls were sacred to Athena, the goddess of wisdom. During battles, seeing an owl flying was regarded by Greek soldiers as a sign of coming victory. Also, Native Americans believe that they’re the guardians of sacred knowledge.
In other cultures, they’re seen as protectors and guardians of the dead. In South Africa, they’re associated with mystery, witchcraft and death. In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, owls are depicted as messengers of death. It’s also said that an owl hoots to warn others of its presence and prevent intruders from entering its territory.
Since these birds have the best vision in the dark, they can inspire you to see the positive side of things even in the darkest of times. Also, they have impressive binocular vision and can’t focus on objects that are too close. For these reasons, an owl tattoo will remind you to broaden your perspective and stay focused on your long-term goals.
In the West, bats are closely associated with vampires, witches and darkness, giving them a terrifying connotation. In Greek mythology, bats were sacred to Persephone who is the wife of Hades, the god of the underworld.
The Chinese view bats as a symbol of good luck, long life and happiness. The Chinese word for bat sounds the same as fu that means fortune. In Celtic culture, these creatures of the night are used as a representation of courage, change and seeing the unseen. In some interpretations, a bat tattoo can symbolize transition, letting go of the old and starting a new beginning.
One of the most enduring creatures in the world, the scorpion has gained the symbolism of protection due to its deadly venom. For some, a scorpion tattoo serves as an amulet, protecting them from danger. In ancient Egypt, amulets were made in scorpion shapes to ward off evil. In Samaria, these creatures are thought to be the guardians of the sacred gateways.
Harry Potter Tattoo
There are several symbols and imagery used in the film, but the Deathly Hallows is the most popular. Its mysterious triangle symbol with a struck-through circle is appealing. It symbolizes that any person who uses the three objects depicted in the symbol will be immortal. There’s also a Philosopher’s Stone symbol, in which an elixir of life is thought to be derived from it.
This one is for the fun-loving child-at-heart. In the animated cartoon, each creature has the ability to transform and get more powerful in each evolution. For the past few years, the famous celebrity Ariana Grande got a Pokémon tattoo, particularly Eevee who is an ever-evolving character that can turn into numerous forms depending on what environment it lives in. It only shows the singer’s evolution, after surviving several challenges in her life. If you want to celebrate your own transformation, think of a Pokémon creature that speaks to you.
City Skyline Tattoos
Whether you want to represent a city you were born in or a place you’ve fallen in love with, a skyline tattoo is a great choice. It commonly features beautiful skyscrapers with or without historic landmarks. For some, it represents their dream city and places they would love to visit, as well as a memorable place that they don’t want to forget.
A Ship’s Wheel Tattoo
Also called the helm, the steering wheel of a ship changes the direction of the boat. In a tattoo, the symbol represents one’s purpose and journey in life, making it perfect for ones trying to find their way through the rough seas. Also, a ship’s wheel tattoo can inspire you to make the most in every opportunity presented before you.
There are several associations of a gun tattoo, but it generally represents strength and freedom. While some see the gun tattoo as aggressive, violent and representing bloodshed, others see it as a symbol of freedom, strength and being in control of one’s own destiny. Singer Rihanna has a gun tattoo on the right side of her torso, which reminds her to be strong and never be a victim. Zayn Malik features an old school revolver inked on his body. From pistols to revolvers and rifles, you have lots of options—but go for something that best suits your personality.
Intriguing and mysterious, an eye tattoo holds deep symbolism around the world. For ancient Egyptians, the Eye of Horus was regarded as the symbol of healing and protection. In some cultures, an Evil Eye talisman is thought to ward off a curse transmitted through an envious glare.
On the other hand, the Eye of Providence, an eye set within a triangle, can be a reminder that God is watching. Many opt for this eye tattoo as a sort of spiritual guidance or divine protection. Some make the tattoo more personal, symbolizing their deceased loved ones who are watching over them.
Roman Numerals Tattoo
Instead of being straightforward with numbers, Roman Numerals tattoos will mark your most memorable date in a more mysterious and meaningful way. After all, everyone has a number or date that they find significant, whether it’s a lucky number, an anniversary, or a loved one’s birthday. You may also honor your loved ones who have passed with this tattoo.
Dara Celtic Knot Tattoo
Most recognized for its interwoven design that resembles a tree, a Dara Celtic knot is a symbol of wisdom and strength. It’s derived from the Gaelic term Doire that translates as oak tree, making it symbolic of the roots of the tree. The Druids regarded the oak trees as sacred, and a Dara Celtic knot tattoo will remind you of your inner strength and wisdom in challenging circumstances.
The outer space is vast and mysterious, making it associated with mystical powers and the unknown. From galaxies to planets, stars and astronauts, a space-themed tattoo will capture the idea of limitless and infinite on your skin. In some contexts, a space-themed tattoo can also represent hope and dreams in life. Others even opt for it to symbolize their love for a particular person since the universe goes on forever.
Family Crest Tattoo
It’s said that a coat of arms is only held by one member of the family—and it reflects the ancestral background, philosophy, values, religion, and interests of the family.
In British heraldry, it’s a tradition for a firstborn son to receive his father’s crest upon his death, which will be passed from heir to heir down the bloodline. If your family doesn’t have one, you can legally apply for one, though it can be a long process. In fact, it can only be legally used when given by the appropriate authority. In the United Kingdom, the grant is made by a formal document with seals of the highest-ranking heraldic officer.
But why go through formal channels when you can create a family crest yourself? You can put your imagination to the test, creating a coat of arms that reflects the values of your family.
No matter what tattoo you choose to have, it matters that the elements of the design mean something to you. It shouldn’t be based on trends and aesthetic, as there are designs that will eventually go out of fashion. With these inspirations, you’ll be able to get a meaningful tattoo that will remain relevant to you for decades to come.