The beautiful thing about tattoos is that no matter their size, or level of simplicity, they can still hold great depth and meaning. While it's fine to choose tattoos for ornamental purposes alone, there are many visually appealing and simple tattoos that are still able to convey a variety of messages and concepts. When a person decides to get a micro tattoo on their finger or wrist, it's sometimes dismissed as nothing more than a “trend tattoo.” This couldn’t be further from the truth! With minimalism gaining popularity within the tattoo realm, many are choosing to adorn their bodies with simplistic designs rich with meaning. A good quote to sum up this sentiment comes from poet and author Charles Bukowski: “An intellectual says a simple thing in a hard way. An artist says a hard thing in a simple way”.
No matter what your intention when designing your tattoo, there are no limits to what you can symbolize even with the smallest and most minimal of designs. Sometimes the true measure of an artist’s talents lies within the ability to express complicated concepts by stripping the visuals down to their core, by utilizing a single symbol or solitary component of a design to say it all.
Looking to gain inspiration for your tiny tattoo? Check out the rest of the article to educate yourself on the variety of meanings that small and simplistic tattoos can hold!
Three Dots Tattoo
A popular choice for a small yet meaningful tattoo are tattoos featuring three dots in succession, otherwise known as an “ellipsis”. Ellipsis are used grammatically to indicate that the sentence is not fully complete. Many have used this simplistic design to indicate a concept of continuance, an unfinished journey, or a slow change of idea or thought. Others use three dot symbolism within their tattoo to convey a deeper spiritual meaning, as three is considered a sacred number in many religions and belief systems. In spiritual circles, the number 3 and its accompanying representations can work to illustrate a number of concepts.
Three is considered to be the numeral that represents the “whole” of the universe, correlating to time, the human body and the world as we know it. It can be used to show beginning, middle and end, heaven, earth and the waters, or body, soul and spirit. In Christian belief systems the three dot tattoo can be used to pay homage to the father, son and the Holy Spirit.
When designing your three dots tattoo keep in mind that there are also some darker meanings associated with the design. When the three dots tattoo is arranged in a triangular shape, it is commonly associated with prison life and criminality. The triangular three dots tattoo generally stands for the concept of “mi vida loca”, Spanish for “my crazy life” and is typically associated with the gang community and lengthy prison sentences. The good news is that this meaning only applies when the dots are placed in a triangular fashion.
Often regarded as a Christian symbol for obvious reasons, cross tattoos are among the most popular motifs as a way to express one's spirituality or religious conviction. Due to the crosses deep meaning of sacrifice, unconditional love and forgiveness of sins, cross tattoo are not likely to ever waver in popularity. However, beware on the placement if you're not comfortable with the inverted cross. Although inverted cross tattoos aren't necessarily “anti-Christ” - as some will have you believe - they mean a slightly different thing that is still associated with the Christian doctrine.
Unalome tattoos represent the path to ascension and spiritual enlightenment within the Buddhist religion. These small tattoos possess deep meaning and work as a beautiful depiction of life’s unpredictable twists and turns, the life altering events that ultimately lead us to our highest version of ourselves. The zigzagging spirals signify the wandering we do in life and the experiences we endure on this plane, whilst the straight path towards the top signifies reaching enlightenment.
Om tattoos are another highly regarded spiritual symbol directly associated with the Buddhist and Hindu faith, but “Om” is actually a sacred chant, mantra and icon for many Eastern religions. Some say that om is the first sound of the Universe, or the sum of all sounds. The om sound actually contains three other sounds: A-U-M, which are supposed to represent a triad of things; the earth, the atmosphere and heaven, the three prominent gods of Hinduism, and their three most significant teachings. According to the Mandukya Upanishad, “The past, the present, and the future, all that was, all that is, all that will be is om. Likewise, all else that may exist beyond the bounds of time, that too is om.”
Nowadays, the om symbol is also often seen in Western cultures, but usually in a non-religious context, particularly among yoga enthusiasts. That being said, it is recommended to avoid placing your om tattoo below the waist line, as it can be seen as being offensive in some Eastern cultures.
The minimalist Christian statement tattoo simply means, "God is greater than the highs and lows". This meaningful yet simple tattoo serves as a powerful reminder to any monotheist of god’s ability to carry them through the lows and keep them humble during the highs.
Wave tattoos possess great meaning as they represent one of the most powerful natural forces on earth. Waves also hold a certain level of duality, as they have been known to swallow sailors, but also propel them to their destinations. For some it may symbolize a particular horoscope associated with water, such as Aquarius, Pisces or Cancer. For others it can be a visual representation of “going with the flow” or letting go of worry and control. Many who select wave tattoos strongly believe in making the most out of life’s highs and lows, giving way to the ebbs and flows in their journey and focusing on the silver lining.
Semicolons are typically used to force the reader to pause in a sentence, indicating that another statement will follow while highlighting its importance at the same time. The same goes for the meaning of the semicolon tattoo, it's meant to signify the continuation of a story, or in reference to tattoos, the moving forward of life’s journey. The symbol of the semicolon as a tattoo is best summarized by late author and activist Amy Bleuel, “My story isn’t over yet, neither is yours".
Amy Bleuel is the founder of suicide prevention organization, Project Semicolon. The symbol of the semicolon was used to signify that life does get better and continue onwards if you can find a way to carry on. Many have chosen this symbol to remind them that life does go on, journeys change, and that the future is unpredictable in nature. In this way the semicolon is an excellent choice for survivors, optimists and those who have overcome great struggles.
Triquetra tattoos, also known as the Trinity Knot, are a Celtic and Nordic symbol with pagan roots. Some pagans believe the three interlocking parts of the triquetra symbolize the connectedness of the earth, sea and sky. Christians came to use these meaningful tattoos to illustrate the Trinity, the idea that God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all one being. Triquetra tattoos can also be used to represent the concept of everlasting life and eternity.
Anchor tattoos, though simple in design, are known to symbolize a variety of uplifting messages. The anchor tattoos meaning can be viewed as a symbol of hope, a reminder to stay grounded, or a representation of steadfastness during the turbulence of life. These small anchor tattoos can also work to display a person’s desire for more stability, security and better luck. The curved shape at the bottom of the anchor also works to symbolize feminine energy, while the vertical rod symbolizes masculine forces. Combining these two designs provides a balance of the energies within us all, known in Asian cultures as “yin and yang”. No matter what your connection to this symbol, there is a simple design to illustrate your unique interpretation and desired meaning.
Sun and Moon Tattoo
A small sun and moon tattoo can hold a great deal of spiritual significance. In mystical and spiritual teachings across the world, the sun and moon typically work to symbolize the juxtaposition of masculine and feminine energy. These symbols when used together can also work to signify the separate arenas of the mind, with consciousness, or that which is “in the light” being portrayed by the sun, while sub consciousness, or that which is “in the dark” is portrayed by the moon. In magical and alchemical circles the joining of these two forces of the mind, represented by the sun and moon, is seen as the necessary process in manifesting one’s will into the material realm.
The sun and moon tattoo can also be viewed as representing existence and emotions. The sun is known as a metaphor for existence and its consistency, best depicted by the rising and setting of the sun every morning and night. The moon is seen as a representation of emotion since its cycles are always changing and create an effect on the tides, or intangible qualities of life.
Deathly Hallows Tattoo
For those who love all things witchy, the deathly hallows tattoo is a simple design rich with meaning! The deathly hallows symbol is an alchemically inspired design stemming from the Harry Potter book series. It is depicted as a triangle with a vertical line running through the center and a circle within it. The symbol as a tattoo works to represent all of the items one must possess to master death, the elder wand, the invisibility cloak and the resurrection stone. In this way it can be interpreted as a symbol of rebirth and regeneration, as well as a tribute to the widely popular and influential book series.
Interested in Norse mythology? The valknut tattoo may be the perfect minimalist design for you! Originating around the Middle Ages, this symbol featuring three interlocking triangles has been known to serve as an illustration for the afterlife, rebirth, and the concepts of continuity, order and undying will. The symbol itself is known by many names including the “knot of the slain”, “the heart of the slain”, and the “heart of Vala”. Undoubtedly, this ancient symbol speaks to the soul’s power over negative forces and the resilience of the human spirit. For those seeking strength and continued willpower, the valknut tattoo is an excellent selection.
Basic Alchemy Tattoo
Some of the world’s greatest hidden knowledge can be found within the simplest of designs, and this is especially true in the occult practice of Alchemy, a belief system believed to have been gifted to humankind during ancient times, pairing mystical beliefs with the scientific understandings of our world. While many have believed alchemy to be the literal transformation of base metals into gold, the metaphysical belief system serves as a hidden art dedicated to transitioning the soul into the process known as “ascension”. Many have elected to tattoo themselves with symbols of these metals, understanding their correlation to universal and planetary forces, and the gods and goddesses of ancient times.
Alchemy not only works with metals, but also with symbols of the elements. This is why many choose tattoos symbolic of the 4 elements when expressing their adherence to alchemical beliefs.
Fire element tattoos are represented by upwards facing triangles. The meaning of this symbol in a tattoo is an ode to passion, inspiration, spontaneous adventure, and the energy which creates and directs the flow of life. The corresponding horoscope signs for the fire element are Leo, Sagittarius and Aries.
Earth element tattoos are symbolized by an upside down triangle with a line through the top. These tattoos work to symbolize feminine energy, creativity, nurturing attitudes and fertility. The horoscope signs of Virgo, Taurus and Capricorn all fall under the influence of the earth elemental.
Water element tattoos are symbolized by a simple upside down triangle. Water is considered the element associated with life force, the subconscious mind, psychic ability, purification, emotions and intuition. The signs ruled by the water elemental are Scorpio, Pisces and Cancer.
Air element tattoos are shown as an upward pointing triangle with a horizontal line through the top. Air is believed to represent mental processes, breath, communication, knowledge and life. The signs associated with this element are Gemini, Libra and Aquarius.
The enso circle tattoo is an excellent and simplistic tattoo design for those practicing meditation, or those invested in the teachings of Zen Buddhism. The circle is painted by followers of Zen as it is believed to capture the truth and innermost workings of the artist’s being at that point in time. The zen circle tattoo serves to represent the “void”, or “ultimate nothingness” which is believed to be the source of all that is created: the tao. The void of the enso can also represent the desired end result of meditation, which is the dissolution of the ego and the letting go of mental processes. Enso tattoo meanings may vary from person to person, but the general notion is an idea of letting go and dissolving the ego.
The ampersand symbol, also commonly referred to as the “and” symbol, is a simplistic design that can signify a great many things. Traditionally the ampersand tattoo meaning can be interpreted as representing union, togetherness, marriage, friendship, or an attachment to a person, place or concept. This minimal design can easily be placed anywhere on the body as a reminder of connectedness to that which you love and value.
Though symbols are often used to convey large messages in a small and simple way, there are also various words that work to symbolize a variety of sentiments and concepts. One of these powerful words is the Greek term “meraki”, which represents doing things with soul and purpose, or the idea of placing passion and love into all that you do. Meraki tattoo meanings are personal to the wearer, but typically serve to encourage an attitude of inspiration, creativity and flow in all the actions that we take.
Get more inspiration for your next meaningful tattoo with the top 250 best symbol tattoos of the year.