33 Powerful Stories Behind Tattoos With Real Meaning

So we decided recently to ask our readers about their tattoo ideas, and more precisely, about tattoos with a secret meaning behind them. Because anyone can rock up at the tattoo parlor and get their name done in Mandarin script or stamp a tribal tattoo design on their arm in a lame attempt to draw attention to their scrawny biceps, but not many choose to go with truly meaningful tattoos.

These unique tattoos are different; they are meaningful in deeply touching ways, from loving memories of departed family members to reminders of past struggles and the recovery from things like addiction and depression. This list compiled by will inspire and move you and perhaps make you reconsider that that rainbow-pooping unicorn you were thinking to get on your ankle and get a tattoo with meaning, not just a pretty picture.

Scroll down to check out the list below, and don’t forget to upvote your favorite tattoos with deep meaning!


After 7 Months, I Finally Got The Tattoo For My Parents, Dog, And Family Home


My Dad Died On December 15, 2016. Today, I Got A Tattoo


Tattoo To Support My Wife’s Fight With Depression


No Title Needed


My Mum Passed Away A Few Months Ago, Yesterday I Got My First Tattoo. She Used To Leave Us Little Post It Notes, I Got It Copied Out


Dad Got Cochlear Implant Tattoo To Match His Daughter’s Real One


Dad Tattoos His Son’s Cancer Scar On His Own Head To Boost Son’s Self-Confidence


His Son Died Of Sids Last Year, And Got A Waveform Tattoo Of His Sons Laugh


Dad Passed Away In 2009, Got A Note He Wrote In My 2nd Grade Yearbook As A Reminder


Simple Chart My Grandpa Drew For Me To Show Where My Home Is On The Surface Of The Earth With Longitude And Latitude


Tattoo Of The Book My Dad Was Reading When He Passed Away

Story behind the tattoo: My father passed away before I was born, so I never met him. But everyone who knew him has always told me that I am exactly like him. Then in my senior year of high school, out of a list of literally thousands of books, I randomly chose to read All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy. When my mom saw that I was reading it, she got very excited and ran into her room. She brought out a copy of All the Pretty Horses from 1993, bookmarked to page 128. It was the book my father was reading before he passed away. So I got a tattoo to memorialize my father and the connection I have with him despite the fact that I never met him.


Just Got A New Tattoo! It’s A Poem My Dad Wrote To Me The Day I Was Born, He Died This Summer


Shot Heroin For 12 Years. Today Is 4 Years Clean. I Get A Tally Every 23rd Of July


Got My First Tattoo Today. The Big Brick Is To Represent My Big Brother Who Died One Day Shy Of His 40th Birthday This Year, In His Favorite Color, And The Little One (Hugging The Larger One) Represents Me, In My Favorite Color. We Always Built Lego Together


Got My Dads Last Handprint Tattooed On My Back. My Dad Passed Away Last November And I Had The Funeral Home Take His Handprint For Me And I Got It Tattooed On My Back


My Mom And Dad Had Cancer At The Same Time In The Same Hospital. He Wrote Her This Note When They Were Too Sick To Visit Each Other. This Is My First Ever Tattoo, In His Memory!


My Second Tattoo Nearly Two Weeks After My First. A Semicolon For Suicide Awareness. It May Be Small, But It Has A Powerful Meaning.

“When I was seven my father committed suicide. Then I didn’t even know what it was. All I knew is I stopped seeing “daddy” all of the time. As I grew older, I heard more and more news topics, read more news articles, and heard more of my friends say “someone else just took their life.” I’ve become more concerned that people my age were taking their life because they were unhappy. Last year, someone whom I didn’t even know personally, but “knew of” through mutual friends took their own life for a temporary problem. After this incident, I came upon the semicolon project. The semicolon project was created for people going through struggles with self-harm, depression, and suicide who could have stopped moving forward, but didn’t. The semicolon is used as the symbol because in a sentence, it separates two ideas. A period can replace a semicolon, but do not choose to do so because they don’t want to end that idea. The semicolon project strives for “not stopping when you can keep moving on. The author is you, and the sentence is your life.”


Something Silly For The “Extra Life” Heart Surgery Gave Me


Heartbreaking Story Behind This Tattoo

“Today was one of those moments I will never forget. A new father came barreling into the shop, a huge ball of energy, basically shouting from excitement “I JUST HAD A BABY GIRL AND I NEED HER NAME TATTOOED ON MY WRIST!!!!” With me hearing this I said congratulations and asked when he had her and he sai “3:30am this morning!!!” He was exhausted yet full of energy. So I set up, and we small talked about all of his kids. He has 5 now.

4 daughters and one son, who accompanied him. We were talking about the baby and he said “she is very important to me” and I said yeah I’m sure she is and he came back with “I have lung cancer, it spread everywhere and there’s not much else they can do. I stopped chemo a month ago and I have 4 months to live. Rainy will carry on my life.” I got sort of choked up. The fact that I was tattooing someone who’s clock was literally ticking faster than anyone’s was just such a hard concept to wrap my head around. He was so positive and explained to me how he was living his life the best that he could. Every single day. He didn’t look sick.

He had such an energetic smile and such a vibe like he had the world in his hands. Today was already humbling because I added onto a sleeve that is on my late best friend’s father. But this… this was the icing on the cake. A moment I truly will never forget. When he was leaving he gave me a really tight hug and genuinely thanked me, shook my hand, winked and said “see you soon”. Thank you rainy and your amazing father for reminding me to live everyday as if it was your last.”


My Mother Passed Away Unexpectedly Two Nights Ago. She Told Me Once That If Were Ever To Get Another Tattoo It Would Have Been A Fairy. I Also Found A Document While Going Through Some Stuff Where She Wrote, “I Love You Very Much. -Mom.” I Miss Her And I Know She Would Have Loved It


My Brother Was Murdered On February 6th, 2015. He Had “Honor Your Truth” Tattooed Across His Chest. We Cremated Him And We Are Putting His Ashes In A Bio Urn, So He Will Grow Into A Strong, Beautiful Oak Tree. This Is My Memorial Tattoo For Him


Best Friend Committed Suicide Last Year. Got Her Last Note As My First Tattoo. She Was Only 15-Years-Old, And I Was 17 When She Died. Tomorrow Is My 19th Birthday And I Miss Her More Than Any Words Could Express


Always Wanted A Tattoo Of A Dragon, And Skyrim Got Me Through Quitting Heroin In 2011 And Helped Me Stay Clean. I’m Super Happy I Finally Did It


One And Only Tattoo

My father passed on Valentines day 2 days before I turned 18, I thought this quote from a prayer said during his funeral was perfect. He had written a birthday card about 30 minutes before his heart attack and it was signed “love ya, dad” so I had his handwriting put below the quote.


For My 18th Birthday I Got A Tattoo Of My Dads Laugh On My Arm, He Passed 3 Years Ago. I Have His Smile And Joy Wherever I Go Now


My Twin Sister Passed Recently, Got These Done In Memory Of The Loss Of My Other Half


This Woman In New Orleans Lost Everything In Katrina. She Set A Goal Of Rebuilding The Home She Lost And Tattooed The Plans On Her Hands As A Daily Reminder While She Works Three Jobs To Achieve Her Dream


Though I Have A Bunch Of Tattoos This Is By Far My Most Meaningful

“This is a dedication to my sister who lost a battle with cancer. My sister was special needs and couldn’t write many things but she did always sign her own cards. This tattoo is a scan from the last card she signed for me. I couldn’t think of a better way to ink her name than in her own handwriting.”


About A Month Ago, I Lost A Friend In A Climbing Accident. I Watched Him Fall 50 Meters To His Death. This Is My Reminder Of Him As Well As A Reminder To Myself To Climb Safe


I Got This 3 Days After My 18th Birthday, It’s My Grandfather Who Died When I Was 7 Holding Up The World In His WWII Uniform


This Whole Sleeve Wraps Around My Dad

“He passed away from ALS and Multiple Systems Atrophy after suffering for 4 years on 9/14/16. The time on the clock is 9:14, which symbolizes the day he stopped suffering and was at peace once again. Frank Sinatra was his favorite artist, so while he was in the hospital in a medically induced coma, we started playing some of Frank’s music. My dad peacefully passed on his own in the middle of the first song we played, “Fly Me To The Moon” which is written in the banner beneath the clock. The dove on my inner forearm symbolizes my dad going off on his new path to heaven. His memory lives on my arm with me forever.”


My Dad Passed Away A Week Ago, My Sister And I Got Tattoos In Our Hometown To Honor Him

The day my dad died, my step mom asked if he could send her a cardinal. Since then, they’ve showed up in many different places. Cards, clothes, a figurine my mother sent her. I’m sure it’s because we’re looking for them but it has brought us a lot of comfort. So the red bird is for him.

The blue birds are for his parents, my gram and poppa. My poppa could mimic so many bird calls. My gram would give my sister and I blue bird figurines for major life events. They helped raise us and I miss them terribly.


Tribute Tattoo For My Best Friend Who Passed Away