I'm painfully jealous of people who can have tattoos. Having an allergy to metal being in my bloodstream — which tattoo ink often has in it — I sadly can't partake in the fun that is getting a tattoo. However, that doesn't mean I can't admire them from afar, especially the powerful one word tattoos of the world.
If you ask me, one word tattoos are one of the greatest tattoo designs you can get. They somehow manage to capture so much heart and soul into a single word. Often eloquent and simple, they also grant an individual the ability to share a bold statement with the world. Just imagine how much thought has to go into a tattoo that's a single word. It has to be something that you're personally connected with or that has a very significant meaning in your life, but that won't get boring. Having the courage to then put that one word onto your body for life has to take some serious guts.
If you're one of these brave souls, props to you. If you're like me and without a single tattoo on your body, well, we can admire the tattoos of others from afar. So join me in paying tribute to 17 inspiring one word tattoos.
NYC-based tattoo artist Sarah Gaugler (@sarahgaugler) is known for her delicate, fine line work — and her text is particularly stunning. In a world that can seem to go a mile a minute, sometimes you need a reminder to just stop and take a deep breath. Sure, you could invest in a smart watch that reminds you to pause and breathe for a minute, but this word makes for a nice tattoo, too.
OK, this is two words, but it’s such an important phrase that I let it slide. While most text tattoos tend to be done in black and white, Lucy Blue’s (@lucybluetattoo) work makes a great case for getting something with a big, bold, and colorful design.
If you’ve been through a particularly tough time in your life, getting “warrior” tattooed on your skin can remind you how strong you really are. The juxtaposition of a powerful word in a delicate, cursive font is extra striking. Artist Jessie Fora (@jessiefora) perfectly demonstrates how a text tattoo can fit nicely with your other ink.
Hey, we’re all a little irregular — and that’s just fine. Tattoo artist Natasha Harden’s (@inkthepainaway) hand poked work focuses on affirming designs and messages that celebrate the vulnerability inside all of us.
Whether you’re a Harry Potter fan, or just want to be reminded of the magical moments that happen in everyday life, this tattoo is sure to be a cherished part of your ink collection. While Kira Bishop (@kirabishoppp) did this piece as part of a Friday The 13th special, it’s honestly a perfect word to get year-round.
If you’re looking to get a less common synonym for “free” or “limitless” inked on your bod, “unbounded” is a great alternative. While this bold text was done with a machine, tattoo artist Aryanna (@redlittlethread) also offers hand poked work.
If all these suggestions are feeling a little too earnest for you, how about some ink dedicated to your favorite food? Cheese, for example, is a spectacular choice. I love the unique font tattoo artist Emma (@thorn_pokes) used for this delicious piece.
Celebrate all those happy chances in life with a “serendipity” tattoo. Artists Kayla Hang (@k_inx) demonstrates how one little word can take up so much space with this piece.
Tattoos are art, yes, but this can also represent any other type of art you enjoy. UK-based Harry Mckenzie (@_harrymckenzie) often works hand written text into his pieces, but this finger tattoo is particularly striking.
Now that “tired” has become one of the most common answers to a simple “how are you?” you might as well get this sentiment of the moment inked on your body forever. I love Kate Memphis’ (@katememphis) take on the traditional “word on a banner over a heart” tattoo style.
Remind yourself, and everyone around you, that you can bounce back from tough situations. Also, @bethanypete’s photo is proof that wrist tattoos will instantly amp up any of your mani pics.
One way to make a text-only tattoo more unique (even if you’re getting a fairly common word) is to find an artist who clearly creates their own custom fonts. @vultures_peck has a couple different signature fonts, including this wavy, bold, black and white text.
Sometimes, simple is best. While we all feel fear from time to time, a delicate reminder of how brave you can be can be super powerful. Tattoo artist Christopher Vasquez (@tattoovasquez) specializes in this type of super pretty text.
Not every tattoo has to be super serious — a text tattoo that features your favorite adjective can be meaningful too. Lily Wolter (@in.k.a.rainbow) is another artist who offers several custom fonts for clients.
Whatever you’re giving thanks for, the word (in any language you have a connection with) as a tattoo can be a daily reminder to feel grateful. Europed-based artist @lazyfactory created this lovely “merci” composition with a completely machine-free technique.
Even when things get rocky, life is worth celebrating — in a permanent way, with a big, bold font. Bali-based artist JamJam (@jamjam.tattoo) does mainly handpoked tattoos, but this one was created with a rotary machine.
OK, another two word exception, because it just looks so good in blue. Sally aka @furhouse says this was a hand poked piece, proving you can experiment with color no matter what type of tattoo you’re getting.
I highly recommend getting a tattoo that celebrates the most important person in your life: You. Toronto-based tattoo artist Brittany Randell (@humblebeetattoo) often does pieces that focus on the client’s identity, so she’s a great person to go to for your most meaningful ink.
This article was originally published on October 6, 2015. It was updated and republished on June 18, 2019. Additional reporting by Kara McGrath.