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Hourglass Tattoos: Design Ideas and Meanings

The Meaning of the Hourglass Tattoo

The hourglass is a popular symbol in tattoos and can be inked alone or with other elements. Hourglass tattoos are popular in themed tattoos and sleeves.

This article includes a variety of hourglass tattoo designs and discusses their meanings. We hope you can find ideas and inspiration here for your next tattoo.


People wear hourglass tattoos for their decorative value and their symbolic value. The hourglass, which much older than the clock, has been a symbol of time for many centuries.

Time is precious, and it is also limited. Many of us don't value time like we should until it is too late. One day or another, time, just like the sand in the hourglass, will run out. The truth is, time goes by in a blink of an eye. Sometimes, we may need to be reminded how valuable our time really is. An hourglass tattoo is a perfect reminder and is an excellent choice for anyone who values life. Many of us take life for granted and forget life is really a privilege rather than a right.


An hourglass tattoo can symbolize time and also so much more. Your hourglass tattoo can represent anything that you want it to, but keep in mind that the world at large will be reminded of the meanings below.

  • Life. Because death gives life meaning.
  • Death. The sand runs out.
  • Inevitability. Don't think the sand won't run out on you too.
  • Energy and power. The sand moves downhill and lets nothing stop it.
  • Balance and new beginnings. An hourglass can be turned.
  • Life's cycles. Each cycle has a beginning and an end.
  • Transience and ending. This too shall pass; neither joy nor misery is permanent.

Hourglass Tattoo Designs

Hourglass tattoos can be designed in different ways and can be assocated with different symbols, elements, and decorations. They can be done in solid black ink or with splashes of vivid color. The hourglass itself may be wood, steel, blown glass, or any other material you can think of. Although hourglasses usually hold sand, with hourglass tattoos, you may also see water or even blood.

Hourglass tattoo designs might include clocks. They often include flowers, and not just because flowers are pretty. Flowers, like human life, are transient and are beautiful only for a little while. A tattoo design might include skulls or a half-burned candle, suggesting that we will all face death at some point. The hourglass may have the wings of a bird or a bat, showing time flying by and reminding us to value what time we have. Another variation is the broken hourglass, which may represent pain, anger, disruption, early death, or the dream of an escape from time.

Hourglass tattoos can also be designed with quotes or inspiring words. They may include banners saying, "Don't Let Time Pass You By," "Carpe Diem," "Tempus Fugit," or "Time Heals All Pain."

With so many different options, you should be able to find an hourglass tattoo design that fits your personality. The different designs in this article give you an idea of what is available. Use them as inspiration to pick up some ideas for your own hourglass tattoo!

Don't Rush to Get Inked!

Before you choose your hourglass tattoo (or any tattoo), be sure to take the time to research it. Make sure that you completely understand what it represents and stands for. People that get inked on an impulse sometimes regret their tattoo later on. You don't want to make this mistake. Remember, you are going to wear this tattoo for the rest of your life.


j l s xox on January 16, 2013:


Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on September 23, 2012:






I want to thank you all for taking the time to comment and view this article. KJ, I am behind you. I wish I had you here to guide me through it all. I thank you sincerely though. Time is a great value, more then many of us acknowledge. Always use it wisely, the hourglass.

Gypsy Rose Lee from Daytona Beach, Florida on August 31, 2012:

Now these are colorful and interesting.

kjforce from Florida on August 27, 2012:

thelyricwriter....We can assume these are done in a " timely" manner....

they are beautiful photos though and I don't mean to make light of the are doing a great job on the subject...I still say" Coffee Table" book..keep your writings safe for further use...honest...

Rosemary Sadler from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand on August 27, 2012:

Wow such varied and colourful designs.

So true, we forget how valuable time is, it slips by all too quickly and seems to go even quicker as we get older.

This is a good tattoo to remind us of how precious time really is.

Awesome Ricky

nanderson500 from Seattle, WA on August 27, 2012:

Agree, these look very cool. Great pics! Voted up and interesting.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on August 27, 2012:

Now those are cool! They get the billybuc seal of approval, as does your hub. :)