Answering my own questions since 2001

Textual Tattoos

Textual tattooEver since I saw Dominic Monaghan’s bicep, I’ve been interested in word and phrase tattoos. That is, tattoos comprised mostly or entirely of English words and sentences.

I don’t have tattoos. I do think that getting a word or phrase takes more courage than getting a bird, maple leaf or kanji character. A hummingbird can represent love or speed or freedom or whatever, but “Yo Mamma” on your inner thigh is far less ambiguous.

I went looking for a site dedicated to textual tattoos. My 40 second search came up empty, so I turned to Flickr. After the jump, you can see my growing list of word and phrase tattoos. If you’ve got one, know of such a repository, spotted a photo of one on the Web or otherwise have something to contribute, leave a comment or email me at darren at darrenbarefoot fullstop com. I’m not interested in Asian characters–there’s a great blog for them already.

I think my favourite, in terms of a selection of text, is the line from Milan Kundera. It’s a lovely sentiment and esoteric. Having collected these, I’ve realized an advantage of getting a textual tattoo–you can improve your odds of having a truly unique piece of body art.

Donna, who has a Gaelic word tattooed on her back, points to a photo gallery I couldn’t find. You can look at the first 150 images for free–apparently people are willing to pay for photos of tattoos.

Via RaeA, this guy tattooed a radio station’s top songs on his butt (only in Australia). I don’t think I’d want the phrase “Smells like Teen Spirit” anywhere near my posterior.

Jo writes with this impressive, lengthy textual tattoo, which reads: “There are two sorts of curiosity — the momentary and the permanent. The momentary is concerned with the odd appearance on the surface of things. The permanent is attracted by the amazing and consecutive life that flows on beneath the surface of things.–Robert Lynd”.

Kymberlie writes with this tattoo, that quotes a poem by Rilke: “and in the ponds broken off from the sky, my feeling sinks as if standing on fishes”.

Here’s a nice message on somebody’s arm: “Believe in forgiveness”.

Jacky sends this quote which in English means “what nourishes me, destroys me”. It looks like that might have been a bit ticklish.

Caitlin sent along this shot of her back, which is another example of that Ghandi quote:

Another Textual Tattoo

Andrew writes with this simple message on his forearm:

Freedom Tattoo

Another photo:

106 Responses to “Textual Tattoos”

  1. Literary Tattoos

    […] topic more thinly. There are obviously plenty of blogs about tattoos out there. Recently (thanks to my popular old post about textual tattoos) I got an email from Jen who’s started a blog only on literary tattoos. If she keeps it up, […]

  2. dilettante

    hey chandler

    i like your idea for the latin tattoo – i was actually going to get it myself, however i did some research and spoke to a latin prof and have since found that it would be more correct to have “per ardua ad astra” – through adversity to the stars, rather than the aspera version….just to let you know :-)

    Nick Reply:

    Ardua = Steep

    Aspera = Rough

    So, “Per Aspera Ad Astra” would be more correct.

    It’s actually the motto to many Air Force’s around the world including the British Royal Air Force.

    I hope that didn’t burst your bubble if you already got the tattoo.

  3. khalil

    the “every being is the author of his own health or disease” is a quote from buddha

  4. steph

    45 from carly says she has the whitman quote “and your very flesh shall be a great poem”.

    I’ve been wanting to get that on my foot for soooooo long. im shocked to hear it someone has it. Pictures please…if you ever read this =)

  5. meghan

    i have the irish gaelic word “dobhriste” inside my wrist which means unbreakable. also “is onorai poll na paiste” on the back of my neck which means “the hole is more honorable than a patch”

  6. Christie

    I have the spanish phrase “Por Algo Sera” tattooed on my side. Although not the literal translation, it’s basically the equivalent of saying “Everything happens for a reason.”

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/30111852@N03/2821174054/

    Mariah Reply:

    I love this…! i was looking for a good textual tattoo for my right wrist.. :)

  7. JadeR

    I have the words “I Miss You” in really pretty font tattooed on the back of my neck for a friend that passed on :)

  8. Sara

    I was thinking about “hear angel trumpets and devil trombones” from A Clockwork Orange

  9. chris

    With the same sword they knight you,
    they gon’ good night you with
    Shit, that’s only half if they like you
    That ain’t even the half what they might do
    Don’t believe me, ask Michael
    See Lucas? See Puda? See Martin? See Malcolm?
    See Biggie? See Pac? See success and its outcome
    See Jesus, see Judas
    See Caesar, see Brutus, see success is like suicide
    Suicide, it’s a suicide
    If you succeed, prepare to be crucified.
    Is to have had and lost
    Better than not having at all?

  10. KVDruidess

    “every being is the author of his own health or disease”. ~ while misquoted, is generally attributed to Buddha. The actual quote is “Every human being is the author of his own health or disease,” and Google’s quite well.

  11. Stacy

    I have two textual tattoos. The first is on the top of my right foot and says “I know I haven’t changed, but I know I’m not the same.” The second is on my left ankle and says “Alive or just breathing.”

  12. Anna

    I want to get the old irish blessing tattooed on my back/shoulder.

    May the road rise to meet you
    May the wind be always at your back
    May the sunshine warm upon your face
    May the rain fall soft upon your fields

    Jennifer Reply:

    I have the words ‘i’d defy gravity’ on my left forearm.
    it’s from the song Back to You by Something For Kate and the lyric is ‘i defy gravity just to get myself back to you’. It doesn’t refer to anyone i know, it’s just the concept of being so passionate about someone you’d do the impossible to be with them.

  13. katy

    My friend brittany has one on her foot that says “walking with the wounded”

    i think third eye blind lyrics…not 100% sure though!

  14. Jake shadow

    i have eros tattooed on my inner hip, im a guy, and it means sexual desire, and is the greek god of cupid. love. it is a text but also a tramp stamp

  15. Michelle

    Hey, Darren. I’d love to tattoo the lyrics to Solisbury Hill on my back but it’ kind of long, and I’m a wimp. May just settle for “scars are souveniers you never lose, the past is never far.”

  16. evan

    “Vires Adveho Ex A Vulnus”

    Latin for Strength Come From A Wound

  17. Dominique Banham

    I’m having a tattoo done in greek .. κάνω όχι κοιτάζω πλάτη μέσα θυμός .. which translates to dont look back in anger. I’m not sure where abouts to have it though, any suggestions??

    George ploumis Reply:

    Have someone who knows how to speak Greek well help you translate that phrase better,because although the words are a direct translation there is a more proper way to say that phrase.

    sophia Reply:

    It’s not right the translation. In greek you must write ”μην γυριζεις πίσω στον θυμό”
    I’m greek, if you need something just ask..

  18. sofie146

    i want “perfectus tantum in suus trunco”, on my hip. Small, about 8cm long, In garamond or some font like that, On my hip.
    Its latin for “perfect only in her imperfections”.
    x

  19. Test Drive Your Tattoo

    […] interest in tattoos (despite not having any). As it happens, the blog post I wrote back in 2005 about textual tattoos gets more search engine traffic than any single article on this […]

  20. mark

    the one you couldnt find:

    “every being is the author of his own health or disease”

    is from buddha

    :)

  21. Chelsea Lee

    I’m planning to get “To the Phoenix and the Dove, co-supremes and stars of love.” tattooed on my back. Its a line from an untitled Shakespearean piece. I have to wait 4 more months though, until I’m eighteen.

  22. J

    im putting “alis volat propris” on my foot. its latin. it means: she flies with her own wings

  23. Mzmayhem333

    I have a gypsy on my right thigh with the quote “all who wander are not lost”

  24. Jennifer

    I have “Stronger than you think I am” around my right ankle. It’s my favourite tattoo because it’s my inspiration to push myself harder and a daily reminder that whatever life throws at me, I can handle it. I placed it so that “Stronger” is on the inside of my ankle, the word that I see most easily.

    It’s originally from a song by Rachel Ferguson.

  25. Helen

    I have Resist much Obey little on the inside of my left wrist. I want another text tattoo but haven’t come across anything that really speaks to me yet.

  26. Design Tattoos | Design Tattoos Idea

    […] Textual TattooImage by DBarefootSomebody sent me this to add to:www.darrenbarefoot.com/archives/2005/03/textual-tattoos.htmlIn terms of search, it’s the most popular page on my site.  Loading … Mate, If You […]

  27. Daniel

    Any good ideas for a memorial text tattoo. I’m thinking i should get a poem, or bible verse going down my forearm. ideas ?

  28. Katelynn

    Getting my first tattoo day after tomorrow. Lyric from the song “You’ve got to learn” and the lyric is “At times your head must rule your heart” Im getting it right below my collarbone. it was a song that was redone by Nina Simone, my favorite artist. I grew up listening to her and I think it’s a important lesson to learn.

  29. Lindsay

    I had the word “compassion” written in Sanskrit tattooed on my forearm after someone very close to me passed away. He used to always tell me, “Not only must you have compassion for others but you must also have compassion for yourself.” Every time I look at my arm I am reminded of how lucky I am to have had this person in my life. I will be forever grateful.

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