We are constantly on the hunt for tattoo inspiration. We love body ink and think it’s a pretty perfect form of self-expression. Some of our favorite celebrities share our affinity for body art, to all different degrees: Miley Cyrus and David Beckham are covered in ink, while Jennifer Aniston and Kylie Jenner have just a few tats.
Some of their tattoos are wild (hello, Ben Affleck’s Phoenix), while others are very personal and super sweet. We’ve rounded up our favorite tattoos of the latter type — here are 16 celebrities with deeply meaningful tattoos. Whether you’re new to the game or can already boast of a dozen trips to the parlor, these tattoos are sure to give you some inspiration for your next trip.
16. Jennifer Aniston
Jennifer Aniston has had a share of handsome men in her life. But she only inked a tribute to one of them on her body: Norman. The Friends actress had her Welsh corgi-terrier for 15 years, and he often accompanied her when she was on location and even, occasionally, made TV appearances with her. When the pooch passed away in 2011, she got his name tattooed on the inside of her right foot. We love this sweet tribute to a beloved pet, and if our own childhood dogs die (not that it’ll ever happen), we’d love to get a touching tribute like this one.
15. Ariana Grande
In 2017, Ariana Grande’s Manchester concert was the site of a terrorist attack. A suicide bomber detonated a homemade bomb, killing 22 and injuring 59 others. The “No Tears Left to Cry” singer was deeply impacted by the incident, returning two weeks later to host a massive benefit concert. On the one year memorial of the attack, Ariana also revealed that she’d gotten a tattoo dedicated to the victims, survivors, and citizens of Manchester. The tattoo, behind her left ear, is of a worker bee, which has long been a symbol of the city. After the terror attack, it was often used on banners, posters, and items sold to raise money for the victims and the recovering city.
Eminem has never been shy about the fact that he isn’t very close with his family. In fact, the only family member he’s ever really been kind about in the media was his Uncle Ronnie. Ronnie was only a couple of months older than Eminem, which meant that the two grew up more like brothers and friends than your average uncle and nephew. When he was 19, Ronnie committed suicide. The loss devastated Eminem, and years later he got a tattoo on his upper left arm as a way to respect and memorialize his beloved friend.
13. Emma Stone
Several years ago, Emma Stone got her first tattoo. It was way more impressive than the drunken mistakes and regrettable tramp stamps that many of us had as first tattoos. Her ink, a pair of bird feet, was designed by Paul McCartney! It was a play on the song “Blackbird,” which Paul McCartney wrote, and which is also Emma’s mother’s favorite song. The timing was important as well — Emma’s mom had just entered remission for the breast cancer that she’d been battling for years. Emma’s said that the tattoo was a one-time deal, “I’ve never gotten tattoos before, and I probably never will again.” But if you’re only going to get one it should be something as meaningful as this!
12. Angelina Jolie
Sometimes the most meaningful tattoos never started out that way. Take Angelina Jolie’s for example. The actress currently has a string of geographical coordinates on her left shoulder that mark the locations where each of her six children were born. But it’s actually a cover-up. The original tattoo was a dragon and the name of her ex-husband Billy Bob Thronton. After that relationship didn’t work out, Angelina got her original tattoo partially lasered off and covered it with this much more significant, and less potentially regrettable, piece. (However, she might regret adding the coordinates for Brad Pitt’s birthplace now).
11. David and Victoria Beckham
While Angelina Jolie may be regretting her inked tributes to her various ex-lovers, David and Victoria Beckham sure aren’t regretting theirs. While some couples mark their love for each other by getting their significant other’s name tattooed on their body, David and Victoria took the sweeter route by getting the phrase, “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine” in Hebrew. The sweet sentiment was added to mark their sixth wedding anniversary (hers goes down her upper spine and his is on his left forearm). It isn’t the only tribute they have to one another, but it’s by far the most meaningful. We’re still swooning over it.
10. Selena Gomez
Selena Gomez has a handful of tattoos, including a “G” behind her ear for her younger sister Gracie and “love yourself first” in Arabic on her right side. But her most meaningful tattoo is the roman numerals LXXVI on the top of her neck. Translated, the number is 76, which is representative of her mother’s birth year, 1976. Selena was raised by a single mom, who she’s often described as having worked tirelessly to provide a better life for the young star. The two share an incredibly close bond (though there have been some rough patches, allegedly due to Sel’s relationship with Justin Bieber), but we love how Selena shows her appreciation with this meaningful tattoo.
Adele gave birth to her son Angelo in 2012 and promptly got two tattoos as a tribute to him. One of them, a cursive letter A, is behind her right ear. The other one says, “He’s my paradise” on her right hand and Angelo’s name on her left. The “Hello” singer has gushed about her son over and over again in the media, saying things like, “He’s the love of my life and the light of my life, but he’s no one else’s apart from me and his dad.” I mean, come on. These are some perfect tributes.
8. Lea Michele
Back in 2013, Lea Michele was dating her Glee co-star Cory Monteith when he unexpectedly died of a drug overdose. Lea has several tattoos memorializing her late love, but the sweetest among them is “if you say so” which is etched along her rib cage. The words are reportedly the final thing Cory said to her in their last ever conversation. If that doesn’t bring tears to your eyes, then honestly you probably don’t have a heart. It seems that no matter where her life goes from here, her love for Cory will never die.
7. Zosia Mamett
If you thought a guitar tattoo was cliché, then Zosia Mamet’s tattoo will definitely have you cringing. At least at first. The Girls actress has a heart tattooed on her right palm. When asked about the decision behind it, Zosia revealed that it was way more than just a cheesy choice. “I had just fallen in love and this kind of just came to me. And I like the sentiment that when you shake someone’s hand it’s with your heart.” We love that sentiment too, Zosia! So few people wear their heart on their sleeve like that, and it’s a great physical reminder that being compassionate and loving is the best way to live.
6. Miley Cyrus
Miley Cyrus is covered in tattoos. She’s got everything from a watermelon, to an alien head, to a dream catcher, to the Theodore Roosevelt quote, “so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” But the sweetest one among her collection is a jar of Vegemite on her left arm. The Australian snack is a favorite of her fiancé Liam Hemsworth and is a unique and fitting tribute to her down-under beau. She got the tattoo not long after the pair reconciled and were rumored to be engaged. We love how personalized it is to the two of them!
5. Kylie Jenner
When Kylie Jenner was spotted with a butterfly tattoo that matched her baby daddy Travis Scott’s, the media went crazy. The two hadn’t been dating that long, and the tat seemed like a pretty big declaration of their love. And while we think it’s super cute, the reality star and makeup mogul has one that’s way more meaningful. In 2016, Kylie revealed that she’d gotten her grandmother’s name (Mary Jo) tattooed on her arm in her grandfather’s writing. We love this meaningful tribute to two of the people who shaped her and have invested so much love and energy into her life.
4. Johnny Depp
In 1993, three Memphis men were sentenced to death row for the murder of three 8-year-old boys. Many were convinced that they were wrongly convicted, and a number of celebrities stepped in to help the men fight for their freedom and pay their legal fees. In 2011, the Memphis three were released. Johnny Depp was one of the celebrities who found himself heavily involved in the case and arguing for the men’s release. During all of this, he formed a particular bond with one of the wrongfully accused, Damien Echols, and they ended up getting matching tattoos of a crow on the top of their left hands, representing how Damien “came back to life” after his release and how their hearts will always be connected from here on out.
3. Jason Derulo
Jason Derulo has stated in interviews how he sees his body as a canvas and how all his ink has deeply personal meanings for him. Our favorite? The word “undefeated” which sits on his right wrist. The singer explained that he got it not long after he broke his neck, and how he’s used it as a mantra, reminding himself of how he rebounded from his “lowest low” and how he can never be defeated. That kind of personal empowerment is something we could all use a little more of, and we’re always supportive of tattoos that remind us how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go.
2. Sam Smith
Sam Smith has been very candid about how difficult it was to grow up gay and how often he was bullied for his sexual orientation. As his career has blossomed and he’s become more confident in who he is as a person, Sam’s been more and more vocal about the obstacles many members of the LGBTQ+ community face and how we can all do better in regards to that. In 2015, he reaffirmed his commitment to ensuring equality for all, by getting the = sign tattooed on his finger.
1. Shawn Mendes
On first look, Shawn Mendes’s guitar tattoo seems like a cliché. It seems like every singer-songwriter to ever exist has had a tattoo similar to this one. But looking closer, it’s easy to see just how significant his tattoo really is. He told Ellen Degeneres, “It’s the woods’ reflection on water and a sound wave connecting to the city, which is Toronto. Actually, the sound wave is my parents and my sister saying ‘I love you.’ So it’s a connection between home, work, and family.” We love anything with that much personal meaning embedded and this just makes Shawn all the more swoon-worthy.