Circle Tattoo Meaning

Circles are significant in many cultures and there are various meanings represented by this simple symbol. If you are considering a circle tattoo or you want to incorporate a circle into a bigger design, you’ll want to know common circle tattoo meanings.

Tattoo artist creating design with multiple circles.  A circle tattoo meaning can be far more complex than its simplistic shape initially suggests.

Circle tattoos often stand for wholeness or the cycle of life and death, but there are many other meanings. Circles are universally recognized symbols in many different cultures and are often used to represent the sun, the Earth, the universe, and more.

This article will explore what you should know about circle tattoos and their variations to help you decide if it is the right tattoo for you.

Circle Tattoo Meaning

A circle design formed by double lines that don't form a complete circle shape, with embellishments suggesting foliage.

The most commonly accepted interpretation of the circle is wholeness, vitality, and the cycle of life. A circle is drawn with no beginning and no end, as the starting point of the circle is also the endpoint. This conveys a sense of wholeness and being complete.

Nature is full of circles. The circle is often used as a representation of the moon, the sun, the Earth, the universe, and even life itself. This means that tattoos with circles can mean many different things depending on the person wearing the tattoo. 

Some other common circle tattoo meanings are:

The universe: The circle can represent the universe and all that falls within it. This includes deities, gods, masters, and everything else seen in life. Cosmic tattoos are popular and can be creatively designed to incorporate stars and the moon within a circle.

A circle design that includes moons and other symbols of paganism.

Time: Some people believe that time is not linear, but is represented as a circle instead. This concept mirrors how the Earth revolves around the sun and how day turns to night and back to daytime.

Spirituality: In many spiritual beliefs, the circle represents the spirit or divine force that keeps life in motion. Many cultures have worshipped the sun and the moon and their significance has been expressed with the circle symbol.

Culture: In Ancient China, the circle represented harmony through the principle of yin and yang. This duality shows the contradictory relationships found throughout life. The two elements together show a circle with two smaller circles inside.

Circle Tattoo Variations

A collection of circles created in various styles of lines and geometric elements.

Circle tattoos are popular because of the versatility of the symbol. A circular-shaped tattoo can simply be a circle without any additions or variations. However, many people add extra symbols and flair to their circle tattoos to make them unique.

Circle tattoos can be drawn as a simple line, thick or thin, or they can be dotted lines that make up the circle. Certain circles are drawn with brush strokes and with pops of color or they can be filled in with black.

A traditional yin-yang symbol can also be used as a circle.

Yin and yang symbols are also seen as a variation of circle tattoos, as the two elements create a perfect circle. This shows the balance between the duality of life forces living in harmony.

Three circles can be placed together in various designs to symbolize the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. These circles are popular amongst followers of Christianity. In some cases, a cross may be placed intersecting with a circle to portray the Celtic Cross.

Those looking to get circle tattoos can get creative with this design as the circle can be used as a frame for another image. Often, circle tattoos frame wildlife scenes, cityscapes, or animals.

A color image of an ouroboros circle represented by a dragon swallowing its own tail.

Ouroboros circle tattoos are popular tattoos shown as a dragon or a serpent drawn in a circular shape twisted as if it is eating its tail. The meaning of this tattoo is the continuation of eternal life, where death is seen as a rebirth rather than an end.

Circles are also used as a frame or an element within tribal patterns which have cultural meanings. Tribal tattoos are popular among Pacific Islanders, who use patterns and circles to represent the continuation of their bloodlines.

Circle Tattoo Styles

Artistic designs that create the suggestion of a circle shape -- these, in particular, could also represent the sun.

Certain circle tattoos are drawn as simple lines that may be quite thin, like a discreet tattoo. Other times, circles are drawn boldly with a thick outline. Some people prefer to keep the tattoo as an outline, while others will have a solid black circle.

Circle tattoos can be drawn as flat 2 dimensional tattoos or loop around your arm or leg. Certain circle tattoo designs are created with a watercolor effect or brush strokes.

There are a wide variety of tribal motifs used along with the circle symbol and these styles are usually used for cultural reasons.

A mystic eye design made up of 5 circles.

The circle tattoo meaning you are looking for should guide your decision on the style you would like your tattoo to take. Circle tattoos can be a complete circle when used to symbolize wholeness. You may decide to get an incomplete circle for a unique and creative effect to express your specific viewpoint on a more general concept (i.e., a circle that’s not closed may mean brokenness, growth toward becoming whole, or breaking an unhealthy cycle)

Getting a circle tattoo doesn’t mean you need to get an actual circle. The shape allows for a lot of creativity and you can create a design in the shape of a circle without needing actual lines to depict the shape.

Circle Tattoo Considerations

Since circles are a universal symbol with various possible meanings and interpretations, it’s generally a safe choice. You can get a circle tattoo just for its simplicity and elegant look without any actual meaning behind it. A circle on its own is fairly safe and most people won’t automatically attribute a negative meaning to this tattoo.

If you are adding other elements to the circle, you should find out if those elements carry any negative connotations. There are some specific circle tattoos you should be aware of that will be discussed below.

Due to its versatility, you can assign different meanings to a circle tattoo throughout your life. The circle symbol expresses many cultures and ideas — the specific meaning it carries for you can change to reflect different aspects of your beliefs and values.

Circle Tattoos In Gang Culture

There are some circle tattoos that identify the person wearing the tattoo as a member of specific gangs.

A circle with SS lightning bolts in it is a tattoo that was used by the Aryan Circle gang in their early years. The circle may also include the letters “AC.”

A Celtic cross design uses a circle in a way that doesn't appear as as obvious circle.

Sometimes Celtic crosses, which prominently feature a circle, are worn by members of gangs, but oftentimes the person has other tattoos to indicate their gang affiliation. Many people have Celtic cross tattoos for reasons that have nothing to do with gangs — their tattoos signify Celtic heritage or pagan spiritual beliefs.

So if a Celtic cross has a special significance for you, don’t be afraid to have it for a tattoo.

The Right Artist For the Job

When getting any tattoo with a perfect shape that requires precise tattooing, you should find a trusted tattoo artist. You won’t be pleased if you aim for a perfect circle to represent wholeness only to have an oval shape drawn on your skin.

If you are looking for a specific style, make sure you research your tattoo artist beforehand to make sure they’ll be able to create the design and style you are after. Tattoo artists usually have certain styles they excel at, and playing to their strengths is a good idea.

Circle Tattoo Placement

A tattoo artist creating a circle shape as part of a larger tattoo design.

Due to the simplicity of the circle, this tattoo can be placed anywhere on the body. Small and simple circles go well on the wrist, ankle, or behind the ear, particularly on women. A few outlined circles placed together work well along the neck, spine, or up your arm.

Circles with more details, such as a Celtic Cross and circle, will look good on your upper arm around the bicep area. Larger circle pieces look good across your back, especially ones with more detail or additional design elements.

A great placement for circle tattoos is around the shoulder and these can be large circles across the arm and back. Alternatively, smaller circles can be fitted neatly on the shoulder.

Circle tattoos that are used as a frame for a nature scene or cityscapes are often found on the inside of your lower arms. Circle bands are also popular around the arm or leg.

Circles can also be used around the elbow as a neat way of avoiding this tender area, especially when getting a sleeve tattoo.

If you opt for a small circle tattoo, you may experience fading because of the small size. Speak to your tattoo artist to determine the best placement and to find out extra care tips to prolong the life of your tattoo.

Circle Tattoo Examples

As you’ll see, there are many artistic ways to suggest the shape of a circle. These are just a few images for you to browse for some inspiration.

Geometric Designs

The actual circle shape of the tattoo doesn’t need to be a simple outline or solid line. You can use patterns to create a thick circle with a double outline.

Collection of circles in various line and geometric element styles.

Creating the Illusion of a Circle

Circle tattoos can also be implied by using other shapes to create the illusion of a circle. For example, this can be done using lines to mimic the sun.

A circle design created as as abstract representation of the sun.

An Element In An Abstract Image

Since the circle is a strong geometric shape, it can be used with other geometric shapes to form an abstract tattoo.

Collection of abstract designs made up of various geometric shapes, including circles.

Animal Designs

Animals can be used to form a circle if you have a strong connection to a particular animal.

An image of a dog's head that suggests a circle shape.

Variations of the Yin-Yang Symbol

If you would like the yin-yang symbol as your tattoo, you can get creative and add other elements to the symbol.

An ornate version of the yin-yang symbol with images of the sun, moon, stars, and clouds in it.

Conclusion

Tattoo artist creating a tattoo with multiple circles.

Circle tattoos are a good choice for your first tattoo — despite their initial simplistic appearance, circles represent complex concepts. The main circle tattoo meanings across most cultures is that of wholeness, eternity, and life.

There are many ways for a tattoo artist to create the shape of a circle beyond just a straight line. A circle tattoo is an opportunity for a lot of creativity and imagination.

The meaning of your circle tattoo can change throughout your lifetime. You get to decide what it means to you.

Curious about what other tattoo images mean? Click here to read other blog articles in our Tattoo Meanings series.

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