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21 Meaningful Tattoo Ideas To Honor A Loved One

When the people we love leave our lives, it can be hard to accept that we won't see them or hear their voices again, or share special occasions with them. Seeing their pictures or carrying mementos of them can be comforting, but for some, it's not enough; they want a more permanent way to keep close to their family or friends. That's why more people are choosing to get tattoos that honor their loved ones, which allows them to carry their memories wherever they go.

According to a survey from Statista, some 42 percent of adults ages 18-69 have at least one tattoo, with another 19 percent saying they're considering getting one. Although there are no stats out there on how many people request memorial tattoos, the trend does seem to be growing, claimed the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Those who do remember a loved one in ink often do it as a way to publicly show their grief, Michigan State professor Theresa Winge told the paper. Winge, who interviewed tattoo owners for her book Body Style, added that a tattoo can be a form of catharsis: “Many expressed guilt for continuing to live after the loss," she explained. "The memorial tattoo keeps their loved ones with them and frees them from that feeling.”

Today, there are so many beautiful designs to choose from when picking a memorial tattoo that it can be hard to select the right one. The important thing is that it reflects both your feelings and the spirit of the person being immortalized. It's also essential to avoid getting any tattoo when you're feeling emotional or impulsive. A survey from Advanced Dermatology revealed that of the people who regret getting one or more of their tats, only 11 percent regretted getting a tattoo memorializing a person or event. But if you're sure you want to remember your loved one for life, here are just some of the designs out there you could use.


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The obvious choice, yes, but sometimes the best one. Lady Gaga chose a small heart tattoo (take a close look at her upper shoulder) to honor her father after he underwent successful heart surgery, reported Billboard. Her father is still alive and well, but that didn't stop her from getting a piece of ink in honor of him.

Birth And Death Dates

Inking the days your loved one entered and left this earth tells the world how long you've been missing them. Some people choose to use Roman numerals instead of the traditional ones.


Hummingbirds are as beautiful and fragile as life itself. Using them in a tat captures that message, as well as your loved one's spirit. Zelda Williams chose this symbol for her dad, Robin Williams, according to People, whose life and wit were brilliant and fleeting.

Angel Or Angel Wings

Many people are comforted by the belief that their loved one is watching over them in the afterlife. If you're among them, an angel-inspired design — either a full figure or just the wings — is a fine choice.

Their Favorite Flower

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If your grandmother loved roses, or your godmother always kept sunflowers in a vase, getting ink of their favorite blossom is a nice remembrance. Or you could choose a forget-me-not, which brings home the idea, too.


A popular faith-based design, a cross can be as simple as two simple lines or as intricate as a Celtic knot theme.


One of the more heart-wrenching ink choices out there, a replica of a newborn's own footprint can help bring at least a little solace to a deeply grieving parent.

A Special Number

If the person you're honoring had a lucky number or a digit that was significant to them in some way, you could use that in your tattoo design. Lea Michele has the number 5 inked on her ribcage, revealed E! News, in memory of her former boyfriend and costar Cory Monteith. Monteith's character on Glee was a high-school football star who wore 5 on his jersey.

Pet Portrait

Some tattoo artists are masters at capturing a pet's likeness from a photo, allowing you to carry a permanent reminder of your fur baby wherever you go.


This design is gaining popularity as both a memorial tat and as a romantic one (with you and your sweethearts' names on either side of the EKG), per PopSugar.


To remember a mother or grandmother who was the undisputed "queen" of the family, this royal symbol is most appropriate.

Their Handwriting

Our penmanship is as unique as we are, so inking a replica of someone's writing makes for a one-of-a-kind memento. Kylie Jenner honored both her grandparents by getting her grandmother's name in her grandfather's handwriting, reported Glamour.


Dragonflies are a symbol of change, rebirth, and the importance of living in the moment (because they spend a relatively small portion of their life flying). That, plus their iridescent beauty, make them a lovely image for a memorial tattoo.

Pet Pawprint

Our pets leave indelible marks on our hearts, but you can also get a mark that's much more publicly visible.

Military Memorial

If your loved one was a proud veteran, honoring them with a military tat, such as an American flag or the symbol of their branch of the service, will tell the world that you're proud of them, too.

Tribal Remembrance

Your tattoo can be especially meaningful if you incorporate your family heritage into it. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson has Maori symbols on his body that represent beloved relatives, according to Ranker.


Butterflies are associated with resurrection and the soul, and some people believe that butterflies represent our deceased loved ones, according to Gardens With Wings. A butterfly tat is a nice way to remember a relative or friend, especially one who loved the insect themselves.

Hobby Tattoo

Whatever pastime your loved one was passionate about — fishing, music, art, quilting — including a symbol of the hobby in your tattoo design (be it a needle and thread or instrument) will show how well you understood them.

Moon And Stars

These celestial symbols often represent motherhood, creativity, or magic, so the meaning for you would depend on whom you're memorializing. Billie Lourd had this tattoo put on her ankle after the death of her mom, Star Wars legend Carrie Fisher.


While a picture may say a thousand words, sometimes words captured in picture form can say even more. You could choose a favorite phrase from a children's book ("I love you forever, I like you for always"), a lyric from a song that reminds you of the person, a farewell message, or a wise quote ("Remember me with love and laughter, for that is how I will remember you all").

A Random Object

Maybe you and your loved one had a secret word, a private joke, or a shared memory that makes you smile every time. Go ahead and design a tat that reflects the connection the two of you had. It doesn't matter if no one else understands the meaning; what's important is that you do.

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