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The Meanings Behind Common Tattoo Symbols and Designs

Part 4: Pride Symbols, Chinese, Japanese Kanji, and Common Tattoo Meanings


Woman with tattoo on neck
Thinkstock/Stockbyte/getty Images
The last segment of this article series on symbols will cover the remaining topics of interest - symbols of pride (gay, lesbian, bi, trans, leather, bear, etc.) and what they mean. And although they don't really qualify as "symbols", this page will also help you to find the meanings of Chinese and Japanese (Kanji) characters that are popular as tattoos. There will also be information about the meanings of certain tattoos that, of themselves, are symbolic for certain reasons. Last, but not least, attention will also be given to symbols of hate - not for the purpose of getting a tattoo, but for avoiding accidentally getting such a tattoo or maybe even avoiding the type of person that wears them. There is a lot to cover, so let's get started.

Symbols of Pride
You probably know the rainbow is a symbol of gay pride, but do you know why? Did you know the gay pride rainbow is only certain colors and in a particular order? Maybe you're not familiar with signs such as pink triangles, black triangles, red ribbons and many different flags. Here is where you can find out what many of them mean.

Chinese/Kanji Characters

  • Japanese and Chinese Names, Words and Phrases
    Find your name in Chinese - this collection is brought to you by Jun Shan, a trusted source for Chinese characters. For a very small fee, you can get your name, a word or phrase and be confident that you are getting an accurate translation.

  • Kanji for Tattoos
    About.com's guide to the Japanese Language, Namiko Abe, has created this section just for those looking for tattoo-appropriate Kanji characters.

Common Tattoo Symbolism

  • Tribal Tattoo History & Symbolism
    A brief look at different styles of historical and modern "tribal" art, along with their meanings.

  • Vanishing Tattoo's Symbol Index
    This A-Z index is probably the most complete resource of tattoo symbols I've found. Excellent resource.

  • Jailhouse Tattoos
    Even the incarcerated have their own symbols to display hard times and hard time. See some of the symbols and meanings here.

Symbols of Hate

  • Hate on Display
    This is an ever-growing database of symbols that display some kind of hate or groups of people that represent hate.

More Symbolism Resources

  • SYMBOLS.com
    An online encyclopedia of graphic symbols. From the site, "SYMBOLS.com contains more than 2,500 Western signs, arranged into 54 groups according to their graphic characteristics. In 1,600 articles their histories, uses, and meanings are thoroughly discussed. The signs range from ideograms carved in mammoth teeth by Cro-Magnon men, to hobo signs and subway graffiti."

  • SYMBOLS.net
    If you haven't found it yet, you just might find it here. This is an excellent collection of several different genres of symbols. Here you'll find even more sources for information on symbols already covered here, plus some fun extras like crop circles, blissymbolics, music and more.

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