Choosing a tattoo

Small Tattoos and Their Meanings

Mary Smith
By Mary Smith. Updated: June 3, 2018
Small Tattoos and Their Meanings

For some the power of tattoos in their life means they take over their body. From giant back tattoos, full sleeves to leaving no piece of skin uninked, some people make tattoos a lifestyle. For others, getting a tattoo is a whimsical thing where they just want a little memory of something. They don't want a big tattoo as they don't think it will suit their style. Still others may want to get a small tattoo as they are interested in getting more, but want to start off slow to see how it goes. With the limitless images you could have as a tattoo, oneHOWTO brings you these small tattoos and their meanings. By taking a look at some of these ideas you might get inspired by one or eliminate those you don't want to get. We'll start with some general categories, then go into specific tattoo images.

You may also be interested in: Sacred Geometry Tattoos and Their Meanings
  1. Beliefs tattoos
  2. Symbol tattoos
  3. Plant and flower tattoos
  4. Bird and animal tattoos
  5. Heart tattoo
  6. Diamond tattoo
  7. Star tattoo
  8. Arrow tattoo
  9. Butterfly tattoo
  10. Anchor tattoo
  11. Compass tattoo
  12. Moustache tattoo
  13. One word lip tattoo
See more >>

Beliefs tattoos

Not all religions allow tattoos. Many people who have some form of faith get tattoos as a reminder of the strength their beliefs can give them. Small tattoos can mean you can get them somewhere you can look at when ever you feel upset to give you some reassurance. A small cross on the wrist or an ‘Om’ symbol from Hinduism might give you a little boost through a tough time. Similarly, some people may get a religious tattoo symbol simply because they want to show others evidence of their faith.

However, small tattoos don't just need to represent religious beliefs. You can get a tattoo which represents any aspect of your belief system. This can be something worthy such as a rainbow triangle in support of LGBTQ rights or something more trivial like the Aerosmith logo for your belief that they're the best band in the world. Whatever your beliefs, you can think of many different small tattoos to represent what you think of the world.

Small Tattoos and Their Meanings - Beliefs tattoos

Symbol tattoos

Of course, all tattoos are a symbol in some way or another. Whether they represent something very meaningful or just go to show you don't have much taste, tattoos will say something about you. So will your clothes and your attitude, but these may not be as permanent.

However, there are many specific symbols which can work well as tattoo ideas. Often, a person's heritage might say something about you. If it befits your family's history, many people get Chinese, Japanese or Korean tattoos as the characters can have great meaning and the imagery is beautiful. Anglo-Saxon runes or Irish Ogham letters might be selected if they mean something to you.

Symbols, however, come in lots of different forms and don't need to have as long as history. Many big bands like Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin or Wu-Tang Clan all have their own logos and many fans like to get these symbols as small tattoos. Getting a symbol or logo of something which interests you can go anywhere. Everything from playing card spades for poker fans or coat-hanger tattoos for those who are obsessed with fashion.

Small Tattoos and Their Meanings - Symbol tattoos

Plant and flower tattoos

Sometimes the best artist is mother nature herself. You don't need to have intricate foliage all across your back to get a flower tattoo. Many people want a small flower tattoo as it can do the same job. These are often simply because flowers are beautiful, but different flowers have different meanings.

Lotus flowers are common for those who see themselves as spiritual people. Dandelion flowers or their floating seeds are a common small tattoo design (especially behind the ear), perhaps representing freedom and being a carefree person. Roses often represent passion, but this may depend on the color. Some plants have medicinal purposes, meaning getting them as a tattoo can represent an illness you may have overcome. Others are linked to folklore and tradition of almost any civilization, lost or current. These include fig trees, willows and oaks, but it'd be hard to find a tree which isn't important to some culture.

Small Tattoos and Their Meanings - Plant and flower tattoos

Bird and animal tattoos

Like trees and plants, the animal kingdom provides beautiful inspiration. Many people have chosen to get pictures of their favorite pet, sometimes in remembrance of passing away, sometimes just another picture of their lovable face to carry with them. Others will get animals which represent their love for the animal world and their commitment to improving environmental concerns. Pandas are part of the WWF logo and whales are commonly used in Greenpeace campaigns. Foxes may represent those who think they are cunning and snake tattoos have been in the tattooing tradition for generations.

Birds are very common tattoos with each species having many different cultural touchstones. Owl tattoos are popular for those who value knowledge and education, often representing intelligence. Phoenix tattoos are common for those who have gone through some pain and trouble in the past, but come through as a new and stronger person. Eagles are very common tattoos, especially among servicepeople thanks to their links to Navy and Army tattoos in the USA. Crows and ravens may be good ideas for those with a darker side to their personality and parrots are often just beautiful birds which make a great small tattoo. Small bird and animal tattoos, however, are not usually very intricate due to lack of space.

Small Tattoos and Their Meanings - Bird and animal tattoos

Heart tattoo

Now that we have had a look at some larger categories of small tattoo, we are going to look at some individual images people might think to get. Heart tattoos are some of the most common small tattoos. They are an incredibly recognizable symbol which usually represents their love for someone. We don't have statistics on how many are out there, but we imagine a large chunk are those which have a ‘mom’ sash across them.

Some people may get a broken heart tattoo to represent someone they have lost, whether in love or from this earth. Sacred heart tattoos make good small designs and some people like American traditional images and might get a dagger through it. This might be a symbol that you are tough, but equally it might just be a good design you enjoy.

Small Tattoos and Their Meanings - Heart tattoo

Diamond tattoo

Diamonds tattoos are perhaps becoming more popular as there has been a recent trend in the popularity of geometric designs. Diamonds are one of the most geometrically interesting designs with some people getting a simple outline and others getting more intricate designs. Diamonds often represent wealth, preciousness, rarity or even love. They are a common small tattoo idea as many people have them put on their fingers. Sometimes this could be just a nice design, some people even get them as a replacement or addition to wedding rings.

Small Tattoos and Their Meanings - Diamond tattoo

Star tattoo

Since humans have been able to look up they have seen the image of stars. For this reason, their symbolism is one of the longest in recorded history. This doesn't mean they have become any less popular. They are linked with Hollywood stars, astral imagery, Navy tattoos, punk rock, Judaism and so many others. There are also so many different types of stars for small tattoos like the five pointed star, pentagrams, nautical stars, star of Ishtar, etc.

Stars are not the only natural design in the sky which can make for good small tattoos. Sun and moon tattoos are also very popular and equally ancient in their symbolism and cultural significance.

Small Tattoos and Their Meanings - Star tattoo

Arrow tattoo

Arrow tattoos are also seemingly increasing in popularity. They are commonly put on arms or down the side, but have also got a little novelty value as they are common finger tattoos. Finger tattoos are a subcategory of small tattoos which are also becoming more popular.

Arrows can have many meanings. They are often a sign of life's trajectory and might be good for some people who see themselves as particularly forward thinking. Broken arrows are a sign you have gone through battle, but have now chosen peace. Crossed arrows can represent love and friendship and feathered arrows often represent independence.

Small Tattoos and Their Meanings - Arrow tattoo

Butterfly tattoo

Although many people may have larger versions, butterflies can make good small tattoo designs. They have a very recognizable shape and they can be designed in any color. They also work well for geometric designs and you can put lots of different swirls and patterns inside. However, they can also be a simple outline. You should be careful with butterfly tattoos, however, as they can be seen by some to be a bit tacky. It depends on your own personal taste and style, but they are often good small tattoo ideas for people who aren¡t committed to tattoos as a lifestyle, but want a small one.

Small Tattoos and Their Meanings - Butterfly tattoo

Anchor tattoo

Another common design, anchor tattoos can be large entire back tattoos, but are also popular as small designs. Thy are linked to traditional American tattoos in the ‘Sailor Jerry’ style, but are also common navy tattoos. They make good small tattoos thanks to their immediately recognizable outline. They often represent being grounded, perhaps if you have or have had a rocky life, anchors can be a symbol of hope that things can stay calm.

Small Tattoos and Their Meanings - Anchor tattoo

Compass tattoo

Compass tattoos are also good small tattoo designs because they don't necessarily need much detail. You can simply have two intersecting lines with N S E W inked at their ends. Or, you can use a more detailed classic compass design with arrows and some intricate details in the body of it. These designs are often similar to anchors and arrows in that they represent direction in your life.

Small Tattoos and Their Meanings - Compass tattoo

Moustache tattoo

Moustache tattoos are a little controversial. Some people may see them as being enjoyable and representative of the ‘chap’ type tattoos which have become popular of late. Others will see them as being the epitome of banal hipster culture and want nothing to do with them. One of the reasons moustaches are on this list of small tattoo designs is because they have been commonly used as finger tattoos. Inked along the side of the finger, you can then hold the finger over your top lip and make it look like you have a little removable moustache. A novelty for sure, but some may find it fun.

Small Tattoos and Their Meanings - Moustache tattoo

One word lip tattoo

Our last small tattoo idea is perhaps the most painful. The inner lip has limited space, but has been used as a place to ink a little word or small symbol. These are often humorous, but the reason many people get it is because it is a place which is only visible when the lip is stretched out. This means people might get secret messages for themselves and their friends without having outward evidence of their ink.

The limited space makes it one of the smallest tattoos to get, but the sensitive skin makes it one of the most painful. Not for everyone and not for the faint hearted, but some people enjoy showing it off at parties.

Small Tattoos and Their Meanings - One word lip tattoo

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Small Tattoos and Their Meanings