A phonetic alphabet is a writing system based on sounds and not pictures, where a symbol is used to represent a specific sound, or phoneme. The English alphabet, for example, is made up of twenty six letters that each represent a phoneme. The modern English alphabet is called the Latin or Roman alphabet. This alphabet is used for different languages, with some slight variations, in a large part of the world. The English language, and most Latin alphabet languages, uses two versions of this alphabet system simultaneously. The first, called majuscule, is the capital or uppercase form and the second, called minuscule, is the small or lowercase form. Both the majuscule and minuscule letters make the same sounds, but they usually have a different shape. An alphabet with this feature feature, both upper and lowercase forms, is known as a bicameral alphabet. Majuscule letters can indicate importance, as well as serve a functional and grammatical purpose.
The Latin alphabet incorporates many other alphabets besides the Greek upon which it was originally based. The Romans assimilated certain letters and stylistic variations into their own writing system to better suit the evolution of their spoken words. Though most of the Latin alphabet is based on the Greek alphabet, sometimes called the Etruscan alphabet, it also contains letters derived from runes, the Phoenician alphabet, and Egyptian hieroglyphics. Furthermore, some letters of the modern Latin alphabet are very recent. Letters like J didn't become standardized until the 20th century.
There is more meaning to the alphabet and the letters themselves than can be ascertained from the shape or form. Some letters have connotations outside of the phonetical sound. These added meanings can change over time or hold different implications for different people. An A could mean an academically successful person, like an A grade, or an adulterous person, like The Scarlet Letter. An A could even stand for anarchy, a political belief and cultural movement. The letter C could indicate the captain of an athletic team or an average student. These subtle meanings are derived by the culture they exist in and, as such, are entirely dependent upon that cultural understanding to convey their intended meaning.
The alphabet category of tattoos encompasses an enormous amount of very different designs. At its simplest, a single letter may be the entire tattoo. This could stand for someone's last name, representing their family, their ancestry. Oftentimes, this letter is elaborately rendered and intricately depicted. This stems from a long tradition of illumination, found in northern European cultures. Illuminated manuscripts were documents, typically religious in nature, that were decorated to become beautiful works of art. The first letter of the passage was masterful and could be as large as an entire page.
Other alphabet tattoos may symbolize a specific person by using the letters of their name, their initials. This is usually more personal and more particular than a family name letter. Tattooing someone's initials can be a form of memorial or commemoration. It is a way to always have that person with you. These initials can be done in a variety of fonts or typefaces, which is the style in which the letters of the alphabet are drawn. This style makes the letters look different, but does not change their inherent meaning.
And lastly, a person might get the entire alphabet as their tattoo design. People who are literarily inclined, like English majors, novelists, journalists, and printers might have a special love of the English alphabet. Teachers might also get a tattoo of the alphabet. Learning the English alphabet, learning to write, and learning to read are all foundational to education and basic academic success.
A whole alphabet can be also tattooed in an ambigram tattoo design style.
Though many people know the alphabet and may even be familiar with its development and history, others have a deep love for it and the English language. Because of this love, an alphabet tattoo can be a deeply moving and intensely personal body modification. The English, or Roman, alphabet is only one of many used throughout the world. Other alphabet systems in use today include the Cyrillic alphabet, the Greek alphabet, the Hebrew alphabet (see hebrew tattoo designs), and so on. Furthermore, there are alphabetic systems that are not based upon phonemes, and use symbols as parts of words or pictures to convey their spoken language.