A knife tattoo is one of the oldest and still the most common designs in tattoo history. The reason is that swords, daggers and knife were considered essential survival tools up until the mid 20th century. However, as opposed to daggers and swords, knives still exists today, even if we are not carrying them around all the time.
For centuries, knives were used as weapons. It is indeed one of the earliest weapons to come into existence – be it in the form of a sharp pointed wooden stick or a well-forged steel blade. They have played an important role throughout fights and wars.
On the other hand, knives were also used as ceremonial tools to carry out sacred rituals. These ceremonies were in the form of human and/or animal sacrifices that were offered to the ancient Gods. Apart from that knives have always been a source of survival for the human race.
They played a vital role in a number of hunting activities – slaughtering animals, peeling off their skin, chopping of the meat, etc. For this reason, remnants of stones and wood knives are much more commonly found by archaeologists as compared to iron blades.
As a result of this rich history, knife tattoos are a popular style of tattoo that has a distinct value for each individual. For some it depicts survival, and a feeling of sacrifice, in line with its history while for others it’s a symbol of skill, accomplishment, focus, and military duty/service.
Knife markings have their association with Buddhist symbology as well. For centuries Buddhists would use a dagger as a representation to cut all ties with the material world. This basically meant they had to let go of all things that exist due to consumerism and were not considered essential for a person to survive.
Similarly, for many individuals these days a knife tattoo holds the same expression – a notion against consumerism. A dagger tattoo is a depiction of cutting all ties with materialism that stands between true enlightenment and freedom for an individual.
In the same way, there are several variations of knife tattoos that have distinct meaning for the individual getting them. Generally, the designs separate themselves from one another with the formation of the hilt, blade and the selection of the accompanying symbols and images.
Following are some of the most popular variations of knife tattoos:
Basic Knife Tattoo Designs
On a rudimentary level knife represents intelligence and wittiness among individuals, and as the expression goes, ‘the sharpest knife in the drawer’. The symbol of the knife is demonstrated by the person’s eagerness to take part in physical combat, and how well he/she can protect his dearest ones from imminent danger.
Irrespective of the fact that who is getting a knife tattoo to cut ties with the material world or depict their physical strength to others, they usually choose to personalize the design of the hilt and the colors of their tattoo. Moreover, individuals tend to make their knife tattoo even more unique by ensuring that a particular style of art, language, or symbol that is solely associated with their heritage is used.
Chef Knife Tattoo Designs
Another one of the most common types of variation of a knife tattoo is the chef’s knife. Surprisingly many chefs take their tattoos as seriously as their culinary skills and tools. For a cook, in particular, a knife is one of the most important tools that they cherish by getting it etched on themselves. Therefore, seldom individuals without any kind of ink are found in the culinary circle.
Knives & Ink sheds some light on the diverse and wonderful world of chef tattoos with fascinating stories that are centuries old. It is often observed that chefs would complement their tattoo design with some quote or another culinary tool that depicts their distinct choice of tools in the kitchen.
For instance, chefs tend to change the design by adding a whisk or tong, or a quote like, ‘cook or die’ or getting a skull with a chef’s hat as a design.
Knife and Fork
Knife and fork is a similar variation of chef knife tattoos; however, they have been observed not only on cooks, but also individuals who have an intense liking for food and beverages. The combination of knife and fork showcases a kind of balance within the person that comes with the use of these fundamental human tools.
Individuals who choose to have this style of the tattoo on themselves often prefer it in a variety of styles such as side by side that represents order and unity, or in a crisscross manner to depict a battle-ready symbol. Moreover, people often choose from a variety of silverware and styles as per their distinct taste.
Heart and Knife
A heart pierced by a dagger has quite a lot of interpretations. For some, it depicts loss, hurt and suffering due to heartbreak. Since a heart has always been associated with emotions and fragility, its loss is illustrated in a conventional manner; a knife piercing the heart from top to the bottom.
Individuals tend to make this sorrowful depiction – their heart literally being stabbed – unique by adding a quote or names to their markings.
On the other hand, in religious symbolism, a dagger through the heart is an adaption of the Catholic Sacred Heart of Mary, who is also called the Lady of Sorrows. This symbol has had its association with the other extreme end – voodoo religion. Ironically, knife and heart tattoo are also associated with Erzulie Dantor who has an evil side that is vengeful and jealous.
This style of tattoo is quite popular among retired soldiers as it shows a continuous eagerness to fight. The two knives can be in opposite direction, standing against each other, which is a depiction of opposing parties, or the knives can be on one side, showing kinship during a battle.
If the person wants to cherish the comradeship and brotherhood that they experienced during their armed service, they tend to have knives that are either identical or similar in characteristics. To further make it exclusive to themselves, people tend to add theirs and their comrade’s initials or the unit or battalion on the knife’s hilt.
Meanwhile, in case of a knife tattoo that depicts enemies or opposing parties in a battle, individuals often selects different style of blades and hilts. Moreover, they tend to make their tattoo stand out by adding the opposing party’s name, their flags or the name of the place where the battle took place.
Serpent and Knife
A snake tattoo that is curled around the knife is known as a Caduceus that showcases the Greek god of healing and medicine. For this reason, this style of tattoo is quite popular in the medical profession. The two figures, snakes and knives, show the pagan symbol of fertility and rebirth and surgical tool.
To make this tattoo design look unique individuals tend to add their medical school year or name to it. Medical students tend to go to the extent of having the hilt decorated with veins, or a heart if the students happen to be studying cardiogy.
Knife in Garter
This is a common style among women that elaborates their inner strength and ferocity. A knife which is a ruthless weapon and is combined with a lady-like garter portrays the ability of females to assassinate their enemies in a discreet and effective manner. The symbol shows both the gentle and brutal side of females.
Usually, women choose to get this tattoo around their thigh, which is the usual place for a garter. So, having the knife etched on one side and a garter all around the thigh gives the tattoo a realistic detail. Individuals tend to personalize the style with the use of distinct colors, patterns, and styles of ribbons.
Knife and Skull
Knife and skull is a design that comes under the most diverse style of designs, with its own set of meaning. The design that has a knife going through the skull from top to bottom represents that the person has conquered their fear of death, and they are no longer scared to die.
On the other hand, among pirates, this symbol of knives and skull was a badge of their community that they would personalize by adding their respective community’s flag. Among many others, the most common style of this tattoo is from the “Jolly Roger”. The design depicts two knives that are crossed behind the skull, and it was used as a symbol for other ships that surrender or sink.
Even though these knife tattoos are among the most popular ones, yet people who have a more creative mind tend to experiment with other symbols. However, be very careful before you experiment as they are permanent marks. So, have your design roughly sketched on a paper by a tattoo artist, make any changes if necessary, and then let the tattooing begin.