Tattoos can mean different things to different people. For some, skin art is a way of displaying their passion while to others, it can be a reminder of important people or even of life’s milestones.
Needless to say, you should give it a lot of thought before deciding on a specific design. Remember that getting inked is always easier than having it erased.
Take it from these people who ended up regretting it after learning what their Chinese or Japanese character tattoos actually mean. They came asking Hanzi Smatter, who runs a blog “dedicated to the misuse of Chinese characters in western culture,” for interpretation and many of them were shocked with the results.
Go scroll down below and see the blogger’s explanation for each tattoo.
“So my boyfriend got this tattoo the other day and was told it meant ‘loyalty’ in Japanese Kanji.”
What these characters actually mean: 麺 [めん] noodles
“I got these back in 99… It was supposed to mean ‘Faith, Passion, Discipline.”
What these characters actually mean: 肝 liver 纪 record, annal, historical account 瘾 rash; add!ction, craving, habit
“[Below] is my sister’s new tattoo, it is supposed to be both of her daughters initials (ESO and EGO in English). But what are we really looking at?”
What these characters actually mean: 所 place, 狗 dog
“What does this mean? My friend asked me to find out what she’s had tattooed on her shoulder since her teens.”
What these characters actually mean: 大過 [たいか] serious error; gross mistake
“No idea what I even had done 15 years ago. Honestly no clue any help? I think was meant to be my initials. J A M.”
There is no meaning; this is gibberish
“Hello, My boyfriend got this tattoo a while ago, he initially thought it meant “freedom”.
What these characters actually mean: 無料 [むりょう] free; no charge. It does not have same meaning as “freedom”.
“My girlfriend has this tattoo and she thinks it says ‘friendship’. Can you confirm this? Thank you.”
What these characters actually mean: 醜: bad looking; shame; ugly; unclean
“My brother recently got a tattoo that he believe translates to “fast and furious.” Is this the case at all?”
What these characters actually mean: “fast” and “foolish”
“I got this tattoo 17 years ago in NYC. The tattoos were supposed to have read, “Strength and Courage.”
What these characters actually mean: 小畜 “little animal” and 大過 “big mistake”
“I got a tattoo a few years back saw the image in a shop alongside a few others, and decided to get it. It is supposed to be Outlaw, though someone I used to game online with from China told me it actually directly translates to Out of the Law. I can live with that if that is true. Though now that it is time to get my tattoos touched up due to fading, I want to double check before I get a new coat of ink put on it. Here is the attached image from when it was still freshly done.”
What these characters actually mean: 躲藏 means “[in] hiding” and 犯 is “crim inal”. However the translation of 躲藏犯 is equivalent of “snitch” or “rat”. It is associated with someone has betrayed his duty and honor to exchange for freedom but in a life of hiding.
These characters actually mean “golden pig”; the character for pig, 豬, is upside down
“(My friend says) it’s written in Chinese and it says something like – ‘there’s nothing like mom’.
What these characters actually mean: The first character does not exist in written Chinese. However, there is one character 冇 that only exists in written Cantonese, which means “not have”. Of course, that is not what has been tattooed here. This tattoo does not mean “there is nothing like mom”, rather “not have the likeness of my mother”.
“My friend bobby got this dumb tattoo. A resident Japanese says it means “Green Vegetable”, so we have been laughing at bobby.”
What these characters actually mean: 菜 indeed means “greens, vegetable, food dish”
“A girl I know from high school recently got this tattoo on her arm. She says it means ‘beautiful’, but a friend of mine says that isn’t so.”
What these characters actually mean: 災 means “calamity, disaster, catastrophe”, and definitely not “beauty”, which is 美
“My tattoo artist is talented but doesn’t listen. So…I was told this was the symbol for ‘chi’ – a giggling oriental girl told me it means ‘rice’ (which I actually find hilarious.) Any other meaning????”
What these characters actually mean: 米 by itself alone means “rice”
“My husband has a kanji tattoo. He tells everyone that it is supposed to mean something along the lines of “to fight is to suffer””
What these characters actually mean: 窮 typically means “exhausted/poor”
“My friend’s new tattoo. So, he claims the crane represents wisdom, and the characters mean “transience. Is this correct?”
What these characters actually mean: 桜 (cherry)
“I did them myself late one night a couple years back while apprenticing at a tattoo parlor.”
What these characters actually mean: First of all, the top character 苦 is upside down. Bottom characters 阿呆 means “fool, idiot”. The tattoo means “bitter [or suffering] idiot”
“I hope you can translate my tattoo. Please….. It is very important for me”
What these characters actually mean: 巟 a watery waste; to reach
“The symbols come from the Five Phase (constructive/destructive) Cycle of Traditional Chinese Medicine (clockwise from top: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water). They show growth and break down ie. how everything is connected. The root system now extends down to my left foot ending in the double koru”
What these characters actually mean: The character is actually the Japanese katakana ホ(ho) not 木 (ki, tree). The mistaken use of ‘ho’ is quite unfortunate considering the woman as both subject and canvas. And yes, the hip-hop slang meaning of ‘ho’ (whore) is known in Japan and written with the same character.
So there you go, folks. The lesson here is very clear: when getting a tattoo, make sure it’s from a trusted tattoo artist!
For more tattoo interpretations, go check out Hanzi Smatter’s blog.
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