Hearts are a very common motifs for tattoos. Hearts have been featured in tattoo designs since tattoos first gained popularity with sailors and nautical tattoo designs.
The standard heart symbol, is recognized around the world. Hearts represent love and the center of the body. Variations to the heart design change this meaning. Popular variations include flaming hearts, pierced hearts, hearts with arrows, broken hearts, The Sacred Heart and even realistic anatomical heart representations.
Heart tattoos come in a variety of styles, shapes, designs, and colors. Heart tattoos can be very small or incredibly extensive and cover a large area. They could be a simple heart outline or a realistic, anatomically correct design. Colors can be more fanciful purples, blues, and greens, or more traditional reds or even blacks. The quintessential heart tattoo is a simple red heart that says “Mom” in the center. When the famous cartoon character Bart Simpson got a tattoo he chose this very design. But heart tattoo designs are far more variable than this well-known one.
The pierced heart is usually a heart with a dagger bisecting it or has been shot by an arrow. These two designs have come to mean very different things, although in a design sense they are very similar. The dagger heart, which is often associated with the Sacred Heart, represents bravery, enduring struggles, grief, or sorrow. This heart is suffering from an intense burden. Contrastingly, the heart with an arrow symbolizes a heart that has been shot by Cupid. Cupid is the mythological god of love and is said to shoot people with magic darts that causes them to fall in love and is often pictured in cherub tattoo designs. The arrow in a heart tattoo is supposed to be Cupid's arrow. These tattoo designs often mix with lettering tattoo designs, featuring the name of the person who is loved, like a girlfriend or wife.
Likewise, a broken heart tattoo is for a broken relationship. People who have lost their love often get this tattoo to represent their internal sufferings (i.e. they feel as if their heart has been ripped in two). If a person had a heart tattoo to represent a passionate relationship that has since ended, they can get a black crack added to the original design. This shows that the heart is broken and the relationship is no more. Likewise, someone with a broken heart tattoo who has found another lover, can get stitches or a patch added to their tattoo design. This alteration represents that the person's heart has been mended. They were once heartbroken, but they have found a healing love. These tattoos can also feature the names of the loved, or formerly loved, one.
The locked heart is a slightly less common symbol, although it is gaining popularity. Like a locket, the heart is depicted with a padlock or keyhole to represent that only one person, the holder of the key, can access this heart. It is common for the significant other to get a tattoo of the key that symbolically unlocks the heart tattoo. These tattoos do not typically feature names. Because of this, these tattoos do not require alterations if the relationship ends and the couple breaks up. Instead, the heart can simply remain locked until the next relationship and another key.
While a heart symbolizes love, a flaming heart represents passion or all consuming love. Fire tattoo designs can be added to any symbol to emphasize the original meaning. Flames make the image hotter, more intense. Flaming hearts are no exception. One variation, though, is flames surrounding a blackened or shriveled heart. This tattoo usually represents that the flaming passion was so hot that it really did consume the heart. These tattoos often stand for a romantic fling that was passionate brief, leaving a lot of emotional heartache after it ended.
The Sacred Heart is a very historic symbol and tattoo. A Sacred Heart is sometimes depicted as a heart that is surrounded by thorns, crowned, bleeding, pierced by a sword, or burning. This is primarily a Catholic and religious tattoo design symbol and Jesus is often depicted holding the Sacred Heart or offering the Sacred Heart in Catholic statues and paintings. The Sacred Heart represents a devotion to Christ and Christianity, as well as Jesus' love for people and the suffering he endured. The heart in this design is often an anatomically correct heart, not the stylized symbol found in most heart tattoos. The Sacred Heart has extensive symbolism and meaning, including a set of promises and litany.