If asked to draw a symbol to represent love, most people in the modern world would draw a heart. Heart tattoo designs are probably the most obvious tattoo design to symbolize love, but there are many others. What's more, heart tattoos are not only representative of love, but also faith, passion, life, desire, and several other things. A heart tattoo can mean a physical love, a romantic love, or a platonic love. It can also stand for youthful puppy-love because teen girls often doodle hearts while they daydream about the object of their desires.
Hearts are the center of the body, figuratively speaking, and the source of life. A heart tattoo can mean that the person with the tattoo either holds the heart of another or, if the heart is broken, has been hurt by love in the past. Even decades ago when the first sailors were experimenting with modern nautical tattoo designs, hearts were a common design element. They are easy to draw, recognizable, and simple in form. The Claddagh design is Irish in origin and features a heart. The Claddagh, a heart topped with a crown and held by two hands, is becoming a popular tattoo design, both in Ireland and around the world. It represents love (the heart), loyalty (the crown), and friendship (the hands), and has, since its conception, been used as an engagement and wedding symbol. Although it is traditionally found on rings, the design translates well into the tattooing medium as well.
Fruit is often representative of love. An apple tattoo design represents love, fertility, and happiness, while a cherry tattoo design symbolizes love, chastity, and passion. Both of these fruits are seen as tattoo designs, but the cherry tattoo design is far more common. This is partly because apples are also associated, in the West, with school teachers and education. Apples have a longer tradition as symbols of love, dating all the way back to Greek mythology, than as emblems of learning, but this new association is difficult to break. Cherries, on the other hand, are well-known metaphors for virginity and youthful innocence, as well as lust and carnal desires. A cherry tattoo is more likely to connote physical love, rather than emotional or spiritual love.
Cupid is another symbol for love that is owed to Greek mythology. Cupid or cherub tattoo designs are often illustrated as a diapered child, chubby, with small wings and a quiver full of arrows, often tipped with tiny hearts. Cupid, or Eros (meaning love) as he was originally known, is the god of love and the son of Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty and sexual love.
Cupid supposedly shoots people with his arrows, causing them to fall in love or recognize their true love. Sometimes Cupid is depicted as naked or blindfolded, which emphases that love is blind. Cupid tattoos are often small, brightly colored, cartoonish, and youthful looking. They can represent found love or the hope of love in the future. They can also symbolize the lack of control people feel they have over love or who they fall in love with, a sort of romantic helplessness.
The Rose is the flower most often associated with love, and rose tattoo designs are frequently incorporated into tattoos about love. Roses represent sensuality, purity, and romance. They are frequently given by one person to their lover, and are favorites on Valentine's Day and anniversaries. Once again, the Greeks believed that the Rose was sacred to Aphrodite (Venus), who appreciated its beauty. As such, the flower has since been synonymous with love. Like the heart tattoo, roses and flower tattoo designs are popular motifs in tattooing. Rose tattoos also date back to the time of sailors and the first contemporary tattoos and trends.
More obscurely, the seashell is a symbol of love, too. The hard shell protects the vulnerable, defenseless inside. Furthermore, shells often protect valuable and beautiful pearls, which represent innocence and purity. Because of this, seashells are often considered to be symbols of protective or guarding love. Venus, or Aphrodite, was believed to be formed in a giant shell, which carried to shore. In Hindu stories, Lakshmi was created from sand and pearls inside of a shell. Laksmi is the goddess of prosperity, but because of her similar birth to Aphrodite, she is sometimes associated with love, too.
Ancient Egyptians considered the triangle to be a symbol of wisdom and love. The triangle is the shape associated with pubic hair, and, as such, can represent carnal desires and sexuality, too. In Buddhism, the triangle is a prime element, invoking love and positive conscious energy. It connects to the Christian Trinity and religious tattoo designs, as well as family by representing mother, father, and child. Because of these associations, it can also portray familial or religious love and devotion.
One increasingly common love tattoo design is a tattoo divided between two people, whether friends, siblings, or lovers. Each of the pair gets one half of the design, so both halves together create a complete image. This tattoo implies that the person is a single half of something more. Similar to a best friend's necklace from several decades ago, the image, or person, is only complete when combined with their soulmate.