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Tattoo Ideas: Words & Phrases

Updated on January 27, 2016
Angelina Jolie's Pali incantation tattoo is written in the Khmer language
Angelina Jolie's Pali incantation tattoo is written in the Khmer language

Written by: Jaclyn Popola

Of the thirteen 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 "kanjii" 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 Nickciske.com 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 Bmezine.com.

Latin for "Either I will find a way or I will make one."
Latin for "Either I will find a way or I will make one."
"Life Won't Wait" done in Old English font
"Life Won't Wait" done in Old English font

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      matias 4 years ago

      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!

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      Bradley 4 years ago

      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?

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      charlotte 4 years ago

      hi

      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.

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      leo 5 years ago

      only god can judge me

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      April 5 years ago

      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 :) aprilcarthew@yahoo.com

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      dev 5 years ago

      tattos is my life

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      Samantha 5 years ago

      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, sammy___x@hotmail.com

      Thanks

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      hj 5 years ago

      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 :)

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      CTill 5 years ago

      Ashh@ "Only the strong survive"

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      Ashh 5 years ago

      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

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      Tim 5 years ago

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

    • becauseilive profile image
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      becauseilive 5 years ago from N.J.

      @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 :) - becauseilive@hotmail.com

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      mentalmel 5 years ago

      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 tattoos.....one of the only things that are truly our own from artist to grave i love mine!!!!

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      Welmaster 5 years ago

      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?

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      lou 5 years ago

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

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      Tay 5 years ago

      Jews4lyfe

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      kaycee 5 years ago

      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.

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      Jess maree 5 years ago

      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!!

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      stephensoham 5 years ago

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

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      stephensoham 5 years ago

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

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      ZoeLouise 5 years ago

      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

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      Margaret..Greece 5 years ago

      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...

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      Hannah Mckibbin 5 years ago

      hi i thing a good quote is

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

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      Daniela 5 years ago

      hey

      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?

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      Daniela 5 years ago

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

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      Kxo 5 years ago

      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??

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      Kxo 5 years ago

      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.

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      kate 68 5 years ago

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

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      Aurelie 5 years ago

      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.

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      Rio 5 years ago

      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 do..plus i dont know where to get it

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

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      Hannah 5 years ago

      mine is:

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

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      Jessica M 5 years ago

      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?

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      Sigurjón Halldór 5 years ago

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

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      Jacob 5 years ago

      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"

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      annie' 5 years ago

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

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      SMB 5 years ago

      :Keep on dreaming even if it breaks your heart.

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      Snake 5 years ago

      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"

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      Cory Mason 5 years ago

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

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      Shotgun! 5 years ago

      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!

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      hunterblood 5 years ago

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

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      nikki c 5 years ago

      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 nikkicrumley1@gmail.com

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      courtney 5 years ago

      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 courtheartsyouu@yahoo.com

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      greg 5 years ago

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

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      julie 5 years ago

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

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      mel 5 years ago

      i love the guote,

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

      what do you think!?

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      Bret 5 years ago

      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?

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      Crumbrah 5 years ago

      Phrases, words and quotes that are important to you are great for meaningful tattoo ideas. You can also find other meaningful tattoo ideas at http://www.meaningfultattooidea.com

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      Selbzz 5 years ago

      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.

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      Amber 5 years ago

      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?

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      Jossan 5 years ago

      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.

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      Leila. 5 years ago

      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 :)

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      gary 5 years ago

      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

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      Dark Star 5 years ago

      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 :)

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      Bailey 5 years ago

      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.

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      juliee 5 years ago

      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

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      Gary 5 years ago

      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 !

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      Freddie Layne 5 years ago

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

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      maska 5 years ago

      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.

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      corinne 5 years ago

      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 Lking4myprince@aim.com if ud like to help.

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      SamanthaLynn 5 years ago

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

      thanks:)

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      Ashley 5 years ago

      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? :)

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      Kelsey 5 years ago

      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?!

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      Dale 5 years ago

      Sorry I meant dvil.go@hotmail.co.za

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      Dale 5 years ago

      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 evil.go@hotmail.co.za, I'm a guy. How long does a smallish tat on your fore arm tae to heal?

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      Ezio 5 years ago

      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.

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      paige 5 years ago

      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!

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      Leanny Fanny 5 years ago

      ''Love is a war of its own''

      ''TRY.

      and then try again''

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      Kirra 5 years ago

      I like this one ...

      Just wish you were here

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      jammy 5 years ago

      i love them all

      love them

      love them

      love them

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      D.Block 5 years ago

      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"

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      stevie 5 years ago

      i like this, what do you think?

      'we dream our dreams alone with no resistance- oasis

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      stevie 5 years ago

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

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      lindsey 5 years ago

      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

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      Parkour 5 years ago

      "être et durer " ( to be and to last)

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      Happiness 6 years ago

      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!

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      chloelouise 6 years ago

      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

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      Truth 6 years ago

      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.

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      Kristy 6 years ago

      No Fate But What We Make

      Never Say Never

      Wake Your Dreams

      One life one chance

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      MB 6 years ago

      @becauseilive

      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.

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      Karkar 6 years ago

      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

      Karliejauch@yahoo.com

      Thnx xoxox

    • becauseilive profile image
      Author

      becauseilive 6 years ago from N.J.

      @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: https://tatring.com/tattoo-ideas-meanings/Tattoo_I...

      Elvish tattoos: https://tatring.com/tattoo-ideas-meanings/Tattoo_I...

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      Mb 6 years ago

      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?

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      hayleeee 6 years ago

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

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      Hayleeee 6 years ago

      @zaack

      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 :)

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      Charlotte 6 years ago

      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!

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      zaack 6 years ago

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

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      Giorgi 6 years ago

      regard, I'm a boy ))

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      Giorgi 6 years ago

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

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      Lou 6 years ago

      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.

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      darren 6 years ago

      When Words Fail Music Speaks

      Music Is My Drug

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      Cami 6 years ago

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

      Please helppp!! Thx!!

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      Fiona 6 years ago

      Love this site

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

      Gettin tattoo tomorrow

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      Casey 6 years ago

      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

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      shibby 6 years ago

      whats a good quote like such is life but uncommon?

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      ollie 6 years ago

      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

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      amy 6 years ago

      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???

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      Jess 6 years ago

      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?

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      bethany 6 years ago

      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!

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      donnatello 6 years ago

      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 meaningfull..love anything to do with angels or fairies..but only will have space for bout four words..any ideas please?xx

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      gabrielle. 6 years ago

      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 :)