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The secret message of tattoos

Every tattoo is a statement and means something. “People get tattoos for an aesthetic reason and don’t realize there are often centuries-old stories behind the imagery,” says author Trent Aitken-Smith, 44, a long-time body-art fanatic and editor of industry bible Tattoo Master.

Aitken-Smith‘s has written a book entitled The Tattoo Dictionary that serves as a compendium of meanings and origins of several individual designs. In his book he details a selection of the most popular designs and the history and iconography behind them.

Among numerous tattoos, Aitken-Smith reveals us more about their symbolism. For example, the QR codes have become very popular and in many cases they can provide important information of the carrier when scanned.


Next we have the stars tattooed in the chest that, especially in Russian prisons indicate the person is a high-ranking criminal. Another tattoo commonly found in prisons is the teardrop which symbolizes that the wearer is a murderer o has a sad life.

On the other hand, the roses have a nicer meaning; they are associated to eternal love, Christ’s wounds from the Crucifixion or the Virgin Mary. Another image of this kind is the butterfly that symbolizes in many cultures the resurrection, transformation, renewal and the soul.


Tattooing a pair of dices is commonly done to attract luck, particularly if the visible faces make a total of seven. Finally, completing this short list, we have the winged skulls that became very popular in the 1930’s thanks to the motorbike manufacturer Harley-Davidson. This image represents the “fleeting nature of life and the endless cycle of life and death”.

These and more designs will be available as part of the Aitken-Smith’s book, which will reveal the true meanings behind more than 200 popular designs, listed in alphabetical order with illustrations.

The Tattoo Dictionary will be out next September 8.

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