Tattoo Meanings: The Symbolism Behind Popular Designs – LIFESTYLE BY PS icon

Tattoo Meanings: The Symbolism Behind Popular Designs

Tattoos have captivated people for many thousands of years, as an important expression of identity, culture and experience. As well as being visually appealing, tattoos quite often carry deeper meanings. Like any artform, designs are steeped in symbolism that naturally add a layer of meaning beyond just its aesthetic appeal. 

In this post, we are looking at some of the common tattoo designs and their traditional meanings. It goes without saying that personal meaning cannot be understated when it comes to tattoos. Indeed, many tattoos have their own special meaning to the individual that has chosen them, regardless of the symbolism that has been associated with them in the past. In a lot of cases, traditional options can be presented in a new style that changes their meaning significantly. But for those looking to explore tattoo options, diving into the histories and cultural background of  tattoo designs can be a good starting point. 

Lions and Tigers

These two big cats have a great deal of meaning and symbolism across the world, with some similarities in the kinds of ideas they represent between east and west. 

Lion tattoos carry deep symbolic meanings and are one of the most popular designs chosen for tattoos worldwide, due to their majestic and dominant nature. Humans have admired this beautiful animal since the early days of our existence, and it is steeped in meaning and symbolism.

For one, we consider the lion the ‘king’ of the jungle - associating it with royalty, luxury and nobility by extension. In many cultures, lions are seen as guardians and protectors. A lion tattoo may be chosen to symbolize protection, not only physically but also spiritually, guarding the wearer against bad influences or spirits.

Symbolism around the tiger is equally rich and diverse. In many Asian traditions, the tiger is considered a protector against evil and bad luck, and it symbolizes courage and personal strength. It's often used in art and folklore to ward off harm and disease.

The tiger makes a popular and traditional tattoo option in Thailand, where the animal holds important significance. A good option for travelers as well! If you happen to be in the Phuket tattoo market at one point or another, this might be a memorable option. 


The rose holds a significant place in tattoo culture - and human culture alike - tracing back through history over many years. This flower is frequently associated with beauty, love and the everlasting, but is also known to represent the passions more generally. This makes it a popular choice for ink enthusiasts and is frequently seen in modern designs.

Tattoo Meanings:

In studios, around the globe interpretations of the rose vary widely as they reflect personal narratives and emotions.Some people see it as a representation of love and intensity while others view it as a symbol of resilience and fortitude like how a rose can thrive among thorns. The versatility of rose tattoos allows for creative possibilities from classic Americana designs to intricate blackwork and watercolor styles.

Anchors & Nautical Symbols 

Tattoo Meanings:

Given the connection between sailors and tattoos - particularly in western culture - the anchor is a popular design choice even today. In fact, it is so closely associated with tattoos that it may even be described as a little cliche! 

Sailors would spend long periods of time out at sea, giving them plenty of time to ink themselves and often using tattoos as a way of sharing a symbol with the rest of the crew on the ship. Some sailors would also ink themselves with certain designs based on the parts of the world they had traveled. So anchors, compasses and nautical symbols have a rich history as tattoo options, carrying with them a great deal of symbolism. 

Over time, the anchor has come to represent strength and hope, anchoring one's life and keeping them grounded through life's storms. Its symbolism extends beyond maritime contexts, resonating across different cultures.


Dragon tattoos are among the most captivating and symbolic designs found in tattoo art, transcending cultures with their rich mythology and potent symbolism. In Asian cultures, dragons are seen as wise, powerful, and benevolent creatures that wield control over water elements, symbolizing prosperity, good luck, and spiritual power. In contrast, Western dragons are often depicted as guardians of treasures, embodying strength, courage, and raw power.

These mythical creatures are versatile in tattoo art, ranging from intricate, sprawling designs that wrap around limbs or backs, to more minimalistic depictions that fit smaller areas of the body. People choose dragon tattoos not only for their stunning visual appeal but also to represent wisdom, strength, and freedom in their lives. Such tattoos are a profound way to connect with cultural heritage or personal mythology, making each dragon tattoo a unique statement of identity.


Feathers carry cultural symbolism by encapsulating concepts of liberty, flight and spirituality. In Native American culture, feathers symbolize communication with the spiritual realm, while in Celtic tradition, they represent the connection between heaven and earth. In Maori culture, feathers signify achievements and rank. Beyond cultural symbolism, feather designs often convey personal meanings, such as overcoming challenges or embracing one's inner strength. 

The intricate patterns and varying sizes of feathers offer a canvas for individual expression, allowing tattoo enthusiasts to explore deeper layers of personal significance. Whether as a nod to ancestral heritage or as a reminder of resilience, feather tattoos invite wearers to reflect on the intangible aspects of human experience.


Skulls have become a popular choice in tattoo art, embodying themes of mortality, defiance against norms and transformation. No doubt, their appeal is partly due to the connotations with rebellion and the ‘bad boy’ image. Initially seen as a symbol of death, the skull has evolved into a representation of defiance against societal norms and a reminder of the impermanence of life. Our culture has long associated the skull and crossbones with piracy and lawlessness in general, and in tattoo art the idea of rebellion and criminality is still ever present. 

But like all tattoos, there are still diverse interpretations and personal expression that the skull can be used in. It has been used to represent everything from celebrating life after overcoming hardship, to embracing the unknown and life beyond.

Tattoo Meanings:

Their versatility allows for interpretation – from commemorating triumph over adversity to embracing uncertainty. The skulls’ enduring presence in the world of tattoos continues to fascinate and motivate people, encouraging them to delve into the meanings behind its iconic image.


It’s always ideal to find your own meaning in the tattoo designs that you choose, but often what we associate with certain things is determined by its history and symbolism. As mentioned, tattooing your body is all about finding a style and subject that works for you and gives you the aesthetic look you are after - if it offers you meaning and significance as well, then that makes it even more special! 

Meanings of tattoos