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Tattoo Ideas: Words & Phrases

I have 13 tattoos as well as several piercings, and I think they're all pretty cool.

Angelina Jolie's Pali incantation tattoo is written in the Khmer language

Angelina Jolie's Pali incantation tattoo is written in the Khmer language

Of the 13 tattoos I have permanently inked onto my skin for all time, four of them contain words or phrases. There's a single word on my lower stomach that hails from the Elvish language created in the Lord of the Rings saga by J.R.R. Tolkien. "Wake your dreams" is on the back of my neck, "I only want now" is located on my lower back, and a Polish quote that means "Anything I could desire, I already have" wraps around my upper bicep. As an avid reader and obsessive writer, I have maintained a love affair with the written word since learning how to read at age four. No matter how many times I tell myself, "Okay, my next tattoo is going to be an image", I always seem to end up getting more words.

We use words to convey meaning and express desire, to give solace and provide comfort, to impact and inspire. Getting someone's name tattooed can be a permanent memorial of a loved one who has passed away; inking the initials of your partner's name on your body can represent your eternal commitment to one another; a quote from a favorite book or movie can serve as a daily reminder to live the ideals expressed in that particular saying.

And with so many different languages in the world, the possibilities are endless. Famous actress Angelina Jolie has a Pali incantation written in Khmer, the native language of her adopted son's birthplace, Cambodia. Others choose Japanese kanji characters to represent the word or phrase they want to display. Keep in mind, however, that if you get a tattoo in a different in a place that is easily visible to passersby, you will constantly be asked the same question over and over again without fail: "What does your tattoo mean?"

If you're thinking about getting a tat, keep in mind that ideas are all around us at any given moment. If you have a favorite song lyric, instead of getting the actual words, think about getting the corresponding music notes or guitar tabs. If you're interested in getting yours or someone else's name, select a fancy font like Old English to make it interesting. Binary and barcode tattoos are also very popular right now because websites like can be used to turn words and phrases into a series of numbers that only you will be able to understand. I am constantly on the lookout for new tattoo ideas, and currently I am considering two in particular: a quote by artist Kurt Halsey tattooed on my wrist that says "we are more than most will ever know" or a line from Dr. Seuss' children's book The Lorax which reads "unless someone like you cares a whole awful, nothing is going to get better--it's not."

Here are some examples of the many things you can do with lettering tattoos, all courtesy of the wildly popular


matias on June 18, 2013:

hola gente, queria escuchar un consejo... mi historia es la siguiente, hace muy poco tuve la descgracia de perder a mi mama por causa de una enfermedad.. quisiera hacerme un tattoo en su honor, tenia pensado una cruz con sus iniciales arriba o una frase qe diga "el cielo no supo esperar" o algo parecido.. no tengo ninguno echo y no se como ni que hacerme.. espero alguna ayuda, gracias por su tiempo!

Bradley on March 28, 2013:

i want some sort of script on my ribs, im only 16 so im worried about it stretching over time if anyone has any information about that? but other than that i really want a short script on my ribs probably in Italian does anyone have any ideas for inspirational/ motivational quoting or wording?

charlotte on November 23, 2012:


i already have 4 tattoos chosen and im only nine!!!

1. a crying eye on the inside of my left wrist. it represents that sometimes you have to take risks and if they dont sucseed dont give up and dont cry.

2. a phrase on the inside of my left arm saying "life doesnt wait" meaning that you have to just feel free and do what you want when you want.

3. "shhh" going up my left finger so i can easily shhh people when needed!!!

4. a diamond at the end of life doesnt wait to show my sucsess in life.

leo on August 29, 2012:

only god can judge me

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April on July 19, 2012:

Hi, i'm getting my first tattoo done next week, I've had an idea for months and months, its 'happiness is a journey not a destination' around my back on my right hip, ideally i would like a longer quote (just a few words longer)...anyone got any similar quotes...i like the ones about dont wait for the storm to past, dance in the rain. any ideas email me please :)

dev on June 08, 2012:

tattos is my life

Samantha on May 18, 2012:

Hi, i wanna get a butterfly tattoo on my foot i know exactly what i want and was getting it designed until my tattooist let me down, does anybody know a good tattoo designer? Could you email me with details please,


hj on May 16, 2012:

I'm getting a tattoo of a pocket watch and a scroll, in the scroll i want something meaningful about time/life/carrying on sort of things, but only 2 words.

anyone keen to help out?

either english or italian/spanish,

thanks :)

CTill on May 07, 2012:

Ashh@ "Only the strong survive"

Ashh on April 17, 2012:

Wanting my first tattoo its for my son he was born premature and fought for his right to live, I would like a small phrase to some this up was wondering if you have any ideas what I could get and a symbol or image I could get to go with it ? Thanksx

Tim on April 17, 2012:

"And Beauty is the ease required for you to understand that single frame of animation"

Jaclyn Popola (author) from Florida on April 12, 2012:

@mentalmel - Gothic angel wings sound gorgeous! I love that the tat is paired with a Latin quote. Love it, love it, love everything about it. Is there any way you'd be willing to share a pic? I'm the author of this Hub, and I also have another Hub about Latin tattoos. Would love to feature a pic of your tattoo if you're up for it. Let me know :) -

mentalmel on April 11, 2012:

i have gothic angel wings the full lenght breadth of my back with the latin phrase "alis volat propiis" - "she flys with her own wings" it can also mean "he flys" i also have 6 others and im currently deciding on a new one of the only things that are truly our own from artist to grave i love mine!!!!

Welmaster on April 05, 2012:

I was in a car accident and had lost my grandfathers cross necklace which i have worn since i was young. so i am planning on getting "By Faith, Not Sight" with a simple cross. good or bad?

lou on April 03, 2012:

i have a tat between my shoulder blades. " feel the fear, but do it anyway"

Tay on March 23, 2012:


kaycee on March 17, 2012:

hi i have been thinking about this tattoo 4 a while wings on th top middle ov my back with th words- untill you spread your wings u will have no idea how high you can fly.

Jess maree on March 13, 2012:

Hi all I'm 17 nearly 18 and I've been thinking about getting a tattoo for my 18th for ages now but don't want to get it till I'm 100% sure I've been thinking about getting

'everything happens for a reason' but not sure where or maybe something little like 'believe or hope or dream' any ideas would be great!!

stephensoham on March 12, 2012:

try again......hi all in the know like the phase " I miss you more today then yesterday " in latin..and how to say it

stephensoham on March 12, 2012:

hi all in the know like the phase 2I miss you more today then yesterday" in latin..and how to say it

ZoeLouise on March 09, 2012:

im 18 and already have "Love the life you live & Live the life you love" down my arm. Stars on both hands. Bows on the back off my legs. gemini sign on back of my neck. stars on my foot and mum on left hip & dad on right hip, ive desgined loads more that i want lol

Margaret..Greece on March 06, 2012:

I have "Always forgive your enemies but never forget their names" on my back and "Well behaved women never make history" on my ribs.....I am thinking of another tattoo with the "mystery" word inside but i have no idea yet...

please help...

Hannah Mckibbin on March 03, 2012:

hi i thing a good quote is

You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.

Daniela on March 03, 2012:


i'm 18 and i'm thinking about getting a tattoo on my right wrist saying "bruised but never broken". it's mainly because of health problems i had as a baby (i almost died with a tumor in my brain) but it also can be aplied to some moments in life.

lots of people are telling me to wait and think about it because its for life, but i'm thinking since january and i really want to do it. what do you think?

Daniela on February 28, 2012:

Im thinking about the word Faith... wich part os the body I should do it.... help me .,.. =)

Kxo on February 21, 2012:

Also, i want a quote on me by marlin monroe it says imperfection is beauty,madness is genius,its better too be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring, i want this on me but im undecided where on my body.. Any suggestions on where on my body??

Kxo on February 21, 2012:

I am 23 years old,I Have my daughters name with her middle name on my right inner arm, two matching pink corsets on the backs of my legs because i have always wanted them, and a star gazer lily on my left shoulder blade, its my moms favorite flower.

kate 68 on February 14, 2012:

hey my boyfriend and i have a tattoo it didnt hurt an i lyk 2 look at this tattoo its asome

Aurelie on February 12, 2012:

Hi, I'm french and I'm 16. I already have a tattoo in the wrist which represents my parents and I want to make the sentence "music never stops" in the low back.

You find that good ? Or other ideas ?

And sorry if my english is not good.

Rio on February 07, 2012:

Hi everyone

Im 18 and i want to get a tattoo... my grandma died of cancer and she was like my second mother.. I want to get something nice that reminds me her... I dont mind if its a quote, saying anything will i dont know where to get it

If you have any ideas they will really help. or website. thank you

Hannah on February 04, 2012:

mine is:

life belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams

Jessica M on January 29, 2012:

I am looking for a tattoo that represents change and finding myself. I researched that the dragonfly means this but I am having a hard time trying to decide where I want to get it. Also I am trying to find a small quote about change, any ideas?

Sigurjón Halldór on January 29, 2012:

I have on my right arm, "dont let the past steal your present" it reminds me when I do

Jacob on January 28, 2012:

My dad passed away on 6/12/11. I am 15 years old and i'm going to get a tattoo for my 16th birthday. The words im using are " Forever gone, but never forgotten"

annie' on January 19, 2012:

"Be careful what you says, a girl remember everything" in my hips

SMB on January 18, 2012:

:Keep on dreaming even if it breaks your heart.

Snake on January 15, 2012:

is there anyone who can translate this buddha quote to japanese ? "It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles,because the victory is yours it cannot be taken from you angels ro demons, heaven or hell"

Cory Mason on January 14, 2012:

I Have A Scroll On My Back Saying We All Make Choices In Life But In The End Our Choices Make Us

Shotgun! on January 12, 2012:

Dont hate me because u cnt b me!! words r jst words,thy cn mean anythin otherwise nothing is true,everything is parmitted.....haha,i jst made dat up!

hunterblood on January 11, 2012:

can anyone translate for me ?"You cant take nothing for granted and you cant take granted for nothing" in elvish?

nikki c on January 10, 2012:

I turn 18 soon, and i'm wanting to get a tattoo on my side/ribs. i'm not too sure what i want yet. i'm kinda thinking that i want a quote or something or maybe like flowers. but i'm just not sure. if you could give me some ideas, that'd be great! you can email me at

courtney on January 09, 2012:

so ive been researching and looking because i want a tattoo and it led me to this page which seems most along the lines of what i want. but i just want one or two words that describes a quote such as wisdom or serenity. i really love the quote "everything will be okay in the end. if its not okay its not the end" and "in order to be irreplaceable you must always be different" but those are two long for me i just want a simple word or two. any ideas? email me at

greg on January 08, 2012:

what do you think about 'cry when you have to, laugh when you can' written down my arm in like old English font?

julie on January 07, 2012:

Well i decided to get treasure the past with memories that will alway last down my arm

mel on January 06, 2012:

i love the guote,

You'd beter stand for something or you'll fall for anything*

what do you think!?

Bret on January 02, 2012:

I am thinking maybe...

"I watched myself fall asleep, and then I flew away..."

"Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see..."

"Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away..."

"In a land of make believe, that don't believe in me..."

"i found myself so far down, away from the sun again..."

Any othe ideas?

Crumbrah on December 30, 2011:

Phrases, words and quotes that are important to you are great for meaningful tattoo ideas. You can also find other meaningful tattoo ideas at

Selbzz on December 28, 2011:

im getting "we will be victorious" round my wrist! in memory of my friend who died of cancer and we all gave out bands that had we will be victorious on, because of him.

Amber on December 22, 2011:

I have a tattoo on my rib cage right now an it says "though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil" and I'm looking to add a design to it... Any ideas?

Jossan on December 16, 2011:

Okey, I have been thinking a lot about what kind of phrase or words I wanna get. I'm thinking "forever young" on my neck. What do u guys think? Want a few words, something small but with a big meaning. What do u think of "going where my heart takes me" on the ribs?

Pls give me some respons, it drives me crazy to wait for my first tattoo an my parents aren't so helpful.

Leila. on December 15, 2011:

Hey guys, so I'm getting my next tattoo pretty soon. I'm getting three hibiscus flowers going down my side and I wanted to add a word under each flower. Something along the lines of "life goes on" or "life keeps going" I'm open to other languages just want to see what ideas you guys have. Thanks :)

gary on December 14, 2011:

I got a tattoo about a year ago on my back at the the top in the middle its 2 hands praying with rosemary beads raped round them my nan and granddad has not long passed away and i want a little poem underneath and really need some ideas please

thank you

Dark Star on December 13, 2011:

I'm getting tattoo number 5 done soon. I want the lyrics " Don't waste your time or time will waste you" done on my arm. It's from the song Knights of Cydonia by Muse :)

Bailey on December 13, 2011:

I have three, working on my fourth. 1st one was an immature permanent accident in which ive grown to love "peace & strength" across the back of my neck in kanji, 2nd was "she flies with her own set of wings" all the way down my spine in latin, and third "turn thy wounds into wisdom" across my collar bone.

juliee on December 10, 2011:

my mama passed away on my birthday her name was rose iam wanting a tattoo down my arm about something to do with rose maybee a poem but not to long as it is on my arm

Gary on December 08, 2011:

ive got " trust no-one" on left wrist and "fear nothing" on my write , i also got " Heaven's not only a place you go when you die, it's also that moment in life when you finally feel alive" down my rib cage !

Freddie Layne on December 05, 2011:

I have script on my left foor that says 'Illegitimus Non Carborundum' Which means 'Don't Let the Bastards Grind You Down'

maska on November 29, 2011:

I got "To everything there is a season" tattooed up my right torso. Its from ecclesiastes 3:1. I think if youre gonna have just one tattoo, go big or go home.

corinne on November 28, 2011:

hi, ive always been a worrier and very nervous but every day im pushing myself more and more. i want to get a tattoo on my inner wrist with either one word or short phrase and im having a hard time picking one. i was going to put faith or believe but not sure..i like the no day but today as well. idk. just looking for some ideas if anyone can help. my email is if ud like to help.

SamanthaLynn on November 28, 2011:

Hey! this seems like a helpful site and i was wondering if anyone could translate how to say "No Worries" into Greek?


Ashley on November 24, 2011:

I have one tattoo on my foot .. The quote is "to dream is to believe" , translated into Italian "sognare e credere" Any suggestions on what I should do to add to it? I find it kind of boring, but then again, I'm just used to seeing it .. Any ideas/suggestions? :)

Kelsey on November 23, 2011:

I want a tattoo that says, "for those who have stood by my side,you are the story i tell" but i want in a different language. any ideas or translators?!

Dale on November 20, 2011:

Sorry I meant

Dale on November 20, 2011:

I am 18 and what to get wake your dreams on my fore arm but also want to get something representing family members of mine that have been through cancer,there's 3 of them...any ideas please comment or email me, I'm a guy. How long does a smallish tat on your fore arm tae to heal?

Ezio on November 19, 2011:

I LOVE the "Nothing is true. Everything is permitted."

The Assassin's Creed games are AWESOME!!!! I think I'll get that in a different way.

paige on November 17, 2011:

hey guys! i am 19 and i got my first tatt when i was 17. I got "live like you were dying" on my hip with music notes around it. I thought it was very inspirational :) i love it!

Leanny Fanny on November 12, 2011:

''Love is a war of its own''


and then try again''

Kirra on November 09, 2011:

I like this one ...

Just wish you were here

jammy on November 04, 2011:

i love them all

love them

love them

love them

D.Block on November 03, 2011:

im up to 7 tatts and working on more .... im so getting the "wake your dreams" but here is on for you all......"real eyes realize real lies"

stevie on November 03, 2011:

i like this, what do you think?

'we dream our dreams alone with no resistance- oasis

stevie on November 02, 2011:

i like- to live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong. what do you think?

lindsey on October 30, 2011:

I want to get a written tattoo on my foot saying "My angel in the sky" in memory of my mam who passed away 2 years ago but dont know what style of font to get it in. would love some suggestions. thank you

Parkour on October 29, 2011:

"être et durer " ( to be and to last)

Happiness on October 17, 2011:

Hey guys... So I gave birth to my first child 6 weeks ago (a boy) and I'm looking for a really inspirational one line quote that basically says how strong I am and how I have come out the other side a better person because I have no family through abandonment and have had to learn from a really young age to look after number one after going through a lot in my life I'm finally truly happy with my son and my new family and I cant think of a quote powerful enough to get this across any ideas?? I would really appreciate any suggestions :) thank you!

chloelouise on October 17, 2011:

i have a tattoo at the side of my foot which says live, laugh, love. i also have a tattoo on my hip which says: no point in crying over yesterday. But i would love a tattoo somewhere saying only god can judge me:D

Truth on October 15, 2011:

I have a tattoo on my right wrist inner...the word " Sinner " with angel wings and a Halo. Its saying I'm not perfect and not afraid to own it. Nobodys perfect.

Kristy on October 14, 2011:

No Fate But What We Make

Never Say Never

Wake Your Dreams

One life one chance

MB on October 11, 2011:


Thanks for your kind comments, I'd love to let you see them. You will have to give me some instruction though as how to post!!

I also have my name in Chinese or Japanese (can't remember which language!!) on my upper arm but not overly keen on that style anymore. I have a few image tattoos too but always seem to go back to text, it's really intriguing as everyone always wants to know what it's says and why I had it.

Karkar on October 10, 2011:

Hey...alright so I want to get a tattoo on my wrist. I have been thinking and re searching for about 6 months and nothing has sounded perfect. But I want either a quote or a symbol on my wrist symbolizing a whole lot wrapped into one. I want it to inncorporate that I am strong, that no bad something is that I am tough enough to over come any obstacle thrown my way. To always keep my head up and to follow my dreams. Just a reminder that I can see every day that can tell me I can do this!:)

So any suggestions! Please help

Thnx xoxox

Jaclyn Popola (author) from Florida on October 10, 2011:

@Mb - I'd love to see pictures of your tattoos! I have a hub dedicated solely to Latin tattoos, and another for Elvish tattoos. It'd be awesome to be able to add your pics to the gallery. I have the Elvish word lumenn (meaning "to shine") tattooed on me, and I love it.

Here's the links in case you're interested.

Latin tattoos:

Elvish tattoos:

Mb on October 09, 2011:

I have Mors nos non disiungit tattoed on my chest which means death will not part us, Amor vincit omnia on my wrist which means love conquers all and also my sons name and dob in elvish on my forearm.

I want either numquam moribimur on my forearm too which means we'll never die or ut amem et foveam which means whom I love and cherish (trouble with the latter though is David Beckham has it so maybe chavvy?

hayleeee on October 08, 2011:

@bethany so sorry to read about your brother but that's a beautiful idea, he'l be proud of you :)

Hayleeee on October 08, 2011:


i like the sound of your's "live on, no regrets"

i was thinking of getting "Regrets Are Worthless" somewhere on me; people go on a lot about regretting decisions and their actions in the past; but i think, why regret something that's already being and gone, it happened for a reason & you should think to make the future, rather than regretting the past :)

Charlotte on October 08, 2011:

I'm 20 and haven't got any tattoo's yet but got a few in mind that I like, mostly quotes. I love

'Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over it became a butterfly'

'No regrets' but maybe translated into another language

'Whats meant to be will be'

and maybe some lyrics, I love

'Nobody wins when everyone's losing' and

'There will be an answer, let it be'

Also want a treble clef.

Love this website and reading what tattoo's other people have and what they want!

zaack on October 07, 2011:

I have "Live on' No regrets" on my right wrist and i love it

Giorgi on October 07, 2011:

regard, I'm a boy ))

Giorgi on October 07, 2011:

What do you think about word "Someday..." on my inner wrist?

Lou on October 04, 2011:

I have been thinking of having a tattoo on my ribs or wrist saying your the star in the sky and I am the apple of your eye. The reason is I lost my dad in feb this year so he is my star and I am his apple. Just not sure where to have it. Any ideas.

darren on October 03, 2011:

When Words Fail Music Speaks

Music Is My Drug

Cami on October 02, 2011:

Does anyone know the translation of "viva la vida" (spanish) to arabic?!

Please helppp!! Thx!!

Fiona on September 30, 2011:

Love this site

Can someone translate "Awaken your dreams" into arabic for me please?

Gettin tattoo tomorrow

Casey on September 29, 2011:

I have a life like looking wave on my back for my grandparents, they bought me m first surfboard and its my favorite thing to do and the ocean is the place i feel them with me the most.

Im looking into getting a quote but haven't fount one that i fall in love with. not too long just simple and to the point

shibby on September 27, 2011:

whats a good quote like such is life but uncommon?

ollie on September 26, 2011:

As I gazed upon the heavens, I saw pages of my life.

It was then I realized that You remained there by my side.

When the clouds began to gather and the rains came falling down,

I looked to only find one set of footprints on the ground.

getting this in arabic across my ribs, already have 38 hours worth of tattoos

amy on September 22, 2011:

i've got three tattoos already- my zodiac sign on my hip, flower on my foot and a butterfly on my wrist. now i'm after a quote on my lower back what do you think of

'never be afraid to let go'

any other suggestions???

Jess on September 21, 2011:

I want a tattoo but I'm not sure what quote to use...

Nothing worth having comes easy

Never give up

Nothing lasts forever

Or are these dumb?

bethany on September 20, 2011:

i plan to get a tattoo on my wrist that says my survivor.....its for my brother with cancer and has been battling it for 4 years now and he is still going strong! he has aplastic anemia and we can't find someone with the same bone marrow....but he is pretty much my hero!

donnatello on September 20, 2011:

hi lookin for ideas for a tattoo in memory of my dad who died of cancer last yr..already have dad at top of back,and forever by my side underneathe but wanting something goin downwards something anything to do with angels or fairies..but only will have space for bout four words..any ideas please?xx

gabrielle. on September 19, 2011:

Heey im thinking of getting a tatto that willl start in the back of my ear & end in the top of my back & i want to add patterns with a phrase ; what do you think of : never waste a day" if you have other idea that means something like that tell me i really want the write words :)

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