Bell tattoo meaning and symbolism

A bell has long been considered a symbol of the soul, and the act of ringing one is intended to bring awareness of departed spirits or to awaken them. This meaning is particularly significant in many East Asian cultures where bells are traditionally rung when someone dies.

As with most symbols, there are several different interpretations for this tattoo design.

What does a bell tattoo represent?

The idea of tolling a bell as part of the memorial service is probably the most widely accepted meaning, and for this reason it can symbolize death or loss.

However, there are other interpretations that may be more symbolic than literal. For example, some cultures believe bells contain spiritual energy and ring through our lives – we just don’t hear them until it’s time. Similarly, wearing a bell on your skin can be seen as an offering to others or a call to attention.

A bell is also considered a symbol of communication, so the ring could mean being heard by someone you’re unable to reach through words alone. It may even represent hearing something that makes you happy – like wedding bells!

Bell shoulder tattoo
Bell shoulder tattoo @kajetankarczewski

Why get a bell tattoo?

Celebrating a spiritual or cultural connection to bells is likely the primary reason for those who choose this tattoo.

Some people choose to wear a bell as a reminder of their own mortality, and it has been used in various spiritual traditions for this purpose.

For example, it is sometimes worn on clothing or attached to vehicles to attract wandering spirits that need to be escorted safely to shelter.

People who are drawn to the symbolism of bells may also simply enjoy their aesthetics, or wish to carry on traditions they were brought up with or took part in earlier in life.

Different bell tattoos and different meanings

The design can be quite minimal, such as a simple bell tattoo with an open back. This has the benefit of allowing for more to be added later on without covering up any previous work, or allowing room for future designs if desired.

Bell tattoos in color and with character can also look great and add lots of interest, but in this case it is important to bear in mind contrast might make the tattoo hard to read and damage it.

A bell or chime tattoo with sound waves surrounding it raises questions regarding its meaning, as this design is often associated with memorial services and funerals.

A bell resembling an out-of-tune one could represent either a lack of awareness, or an awareness of spiritual sound, like the sound of the heart.

Related questions

What’s the best color for a bell tattoo?

The design can look great in a wide range of colors, but black ink is likely to stand out best against the skin.

Why some say it is a bad idea to get a bell tattoo?

Though bells are generally considered positive symbols, some may still find it unpleasant to wear one. For example, they can be associated with events or people who make them unhappy.

What does a broken bell tattoo mean?

A broken bell is likely to carry negative connotations if it resembles the kind used for funeral services. A sound wave-inspired design can look particularly poignant if it is broken.

Where should I apply my bell tattoo?

This design can look great on a variety of parts of the body. A small one on the wrist or ankle is a popular choice. Bell tattoos on the back, shoulder, chest and stomach are often selected as well.

broken bell tattoo
broken bell tattoo @ nolan_tattoos