Rose Tattoo History, Design and Symbolism

Indisputably, the rose is universally the most adored flower. In Western culture, it has enduring symbols just like the lotus flower has in Eastern culture. Rose has been a preferred theme for artists and poets but in the last couple of centuries, it has become prominent in tattoo artwork. Rose is a thorny flower but is seeped with passion and love.

Rose Tattoo origin & history 

Before you visit let’s know the interesting origin and history of rose tattoos. Rose appeared first in Persia and then in Rome and Greece. From Polynesia and Japan, it reached North and South America. In the 1930s, rose tattoo started gaining their popularity as the sailors got them designed on their bodies in remembrance of their mothers, wives, and girlfriends. Later, the public followed this trend.

Among men, rose tattoos incorporating their beloved’s name inked on the chest were common. Symbolism is extensively used in tattoo designs. There are lines, details, and patterns that speak volumes about the wearer’s personality. 

Incorporated rose tattoo designs and symbolism

Rose tattoo designs have evolved and become a huge pillar in the ink world. It is the most tattooed icon, which is designed as a standalone or paired with another design. Let’s look at some incorporated rose tattoo designs and their symbolism.

  • Rose & anchor – It is a nautical-themed tattoo that symbolizes a commitment to a dear one. Sailors choose this classic anchor tattoo paired with rose. The rose is a tribute to the dear one, whose name is added to the design.
  • Rose & Skull – Skull strongly symbolizes the death of an opponent or overcoming challenges. When united with rose, this design symbolizes life after death or defeating an opponent and starting a fresh life. You can choose a skull wearing rose garland or rose to grow from both eye sockets of the skull.
  • Rose & Clock – Clock reminds you of the time ticking by. It influences people to move in the right direction. A stopwatch symbolizes a moment of romance in the past or anniversary date, while a clock without hands including a single rose depicts endless love. 
  • Rose & Dagger – Both contrasting elements are visually striking and engulfed with deep significance. The dagger symbolizes death, ruthlessness, and betrayal. A design depicting a dagger stabbing a rose reveals the belief that evil always overcomes innocence or heartbreak. A design of dagger with entwining rose vines represents humans’ constant struggle with the good and bad. A design depicting a thorny rose vine choking a dagger indicates goodness always wins over the evil or a possibility for true love after heartbreak. 
  • Rose & Butterfly – The wearer wants to send a message that love has transformed him/her. They have turned into a new leaf after heartbreak. 
  • Rose & Dove – The design is a tribute to the passing away of a loved one.
  • Rose & Rosary – Rosary is a twine of prayer beads and rose is connected with Mary. The wearer who desires to feel protected by God’s Mother can get this tattoo inked!
  • Rose & Compass – Compass shows direction and is a nautical theme popular among sailors. Sailors believe that this tattoo will guide and protect them during rough weather conditions on the sea. Today, the rose is blended with the compass.
  • Rose with thorns – It shows love is unattainable. The wearer is cautious about a romantic relationship. If you go close to the wearer you can end up heartbroken. 


 The history of rose symbolizing love is lengthy but carries different meanings. The meanings can differ based on the design, color, and location. The common meaning of rose is beauty, love, devotion, passion, timelessness, and protection [thorns depict this]. The symbolism of the rose is based on its –


  • White – Purity & Innocence. It symbolizes having or being a secret admirer.
  • Pink – Femininity, grace, innocence, elegance, and gentleness. It is used to show they are cancer survivors.
  • Red – Romance, passion, and dedication. It represents eternal love that can endure time and death. 
  • Black – Sorrow, grief, and death. It stands for rebellion and strength. In some cultures, soldiers returning home tattoo it as a completion of a laborious and lengthy life journey. 
  • Yellow – Devotion, joy, and jealousy. It symbolizes clarity, brightness, and positivity.
  • Blue – There are no blue roses but in the tattoo world it represents a fantasy. The blue roses represent Virgin Mary’s cloak in the rosemary tattoo.
  • Purple – Royalty and wealth. It represents love at first sight. 
  • Orange – It represents excitement, new beginnings, and enthusiasm.


  • Closed petals or buds mean youthfulness or new beginnings.
  • Full bloom depicts achievement, growth, and maturity.
  • Wilting flora indicates defeat, loss, or unreciprocated love. 


  • Three roses signify the 3 guiding principles of life, love, and light. It even means ‘I love you’.
  • Rose with 8 petals indicates renaissance and rebirth.
  • Seven petals show balance and perfection.
  • Five petals imply Christ’s five wounds suffered on the cross. 
  • One rose – Total devotion
  • Two roses – Togetherness
  • Six roses – I desire to be yours
  • Ten roses – An eruption of love 
  • Twelve roses – Infatuation

 Culture & beliefs

  • In Greek, the rose is connected to Goddesses of love – Venus, and Aphrodite.
  • In Christianity, the rose symbolizes the Mother of God – Virgin Mary
  • The ancient Egyptians used roses to honor God Isis.
  • Rose is England’s national flower. 
  • In traditional Tarot cards, there are roses used in the Death card, the Magician, and the Fool. These are the cards that create stability and poise.

 If a person desires to convey a story via art then every chosen rose needs to have a specific color and shape. Your story can align with one of the above symbolisms based on colors, numbers, and shapes. You need to determine how to express your story in the artwork. 

 When you choose a rose for inking, keep the symbols, colors, number, and cultural significance in mind. The beauty of this flower is timeless and makes an appealing classic-style tattoo option. Each rose tattoo design you look around will seem unique like the flower offering hope, love, passion, stability, and strength. 

Lakisha Davis

Lakisha Davis is a 20-year-old business studies student who enjoys watching tv shows, stealing candy from babies, and listening to the radio. She is creative and friendly, but can also be very boring and a bit selfish.

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