The infinity symbol has become something of a staple of contemporary tattooing over the past decade. Gaining in popularity through fashion accessories and jewelry, it quickly became one of the most recognizable and widespread symbols in tattoo design, too.
Elegant in its simplicity, rich in meaning and versatile in design, the infinity symbol can make for an awesome tattoo for both women and men. Read on to find out more about the history of the symbol, its potential meanings, and ideas on how to incorporate it into a truly unique tattoo of your very own. And don’t forget to check out our huge gallery of infinity tattoos!
What is the infinity symbol?
The infinity symbol, also known as the lemniscate, is used primarily in mathematics and physics to refer to something that has no end. The symbol itself was introduced by the English mathematician and priest John Wallis in 1655.
Though the symbol has been in use for almost 500 years, the concept of infinity, or endlessness, has existed for much longer – since the times of the ancients. The first person known to have written about the idea of infinity from a scientific point of view was Archimedes – a Greek mathematician, physicist, astronomer, and engineer who lived over 2,300 years ago. What Wallis did, therefore, wasn’t to invent the idea of endlessness, but to invent a mathematical symbol for it. Just like ‘+’ is a symbol for adding and ‘=’ means ‘equal’, ‘∞’ means ‘infinite’.
It’s unclear what inspired Wallis’ design for the symbol – which looks like the number 8 on its side. The explanation could be simple: the symbol is a line that loops itself and has no beginning or end, immediately signifying eternity and endlessness.
Some sources claim that Wallis based the symbol on the Greek letter ω – a lower case version of omega (Ω), the last letter of the Greek alphabet. Another theory is that the symbol design refers to the ancient Roman numeral for 1,000 – CƆ, which was sometimes used to mean ‘many’ rather than denoting a specific number.
The infinity symbol in culture
As well as being a mathematical symbol, the infinity loop has a firm place as a cultural sign. Although it’s not tied directly to any specific culture, it’s both universally recognizable and aesthetically pleasing – making it a common element in art and graphic design.
Typography and logo designs in particular are often based on the infinity symbol. For example, the logo for PlayStation Room was stylized to look as if the two ‘o’s of ‘room’ were an infinity symbol. The American learning platform Coursera combines the ‘C’ and ‘o’ in its logo into an infinity symbol, and in Fujitsu’s logo, the dots above the ‘j’ and ‘I’ form the infinity.
The infinity is also a significant symbol in modern mysticism. In this niche, it has become associated with the ouroboros – the ancient image of snake eating its own tail, symbolizing eternity and rebirth. Though the original ouroboros was usually circular in shape, figure-eight-shaped ouroboros has become a popular symbol more recently, in a combination of two elements (the snake and the ‘8’ shape) both of which mean infinity.
Still in the realm of modern mysticism, it’s interesting to note that the infinity symbol appears on many of the Rider-Waite tarot cards, for example on Strength and The Magician. Known for its deep and complex symbolism, the Rider-Waite deck was published in 1910 and is one of the most popular tarot decks worldwide.
Infinity tattoo meaning
Though the meaning infinity as a symbol is simple and widely known, the infinity symbol as a tattoo can take on a number of different meanings – it can mean different things to each individual. When a person decides to get the infinity symbol tattooed, they usually have some deeper, personal meaning in mind – of why the idea of infinity is important to them and to what it relates.
General examples of what an eternity symbol tattoo could mean include:
- Infinite love – the infinity symbol is often used as a statement of infinite affection for a loved one – both in the sense of lasting forever and of being limitless. For this reason, the infinity symbol is often combined with names in tattoo designs, and it’s also a common choice for matching tattoos for couples.
- Remembering something or someone forever – infinity tattoos can serve as minimalistic reminders of people or events. An infinity tattoo could also be a promise to remember ideas and concepts – for instance, positive thinking, believing in yourself, or staying strong.
- Limitless possibilities – similar to the idea of the infinity symbol being a reminder to stay positive, it can also be used to express the notion of being able to do anything we set our minds to – we live in a world of endless possibilities, after all!
- Infinity in the cosmic sense – the idea of the universe being infinite is central to some people’s personal life philosophies and approaches. In this context, the infinity symbol can be a reminder of our place in this infinite cosmos or of the fact that since time and space are eternal and endless, anything could happen.
One of the many advantages of an infinity symbol tattoo is that its true, personal meaning will be known only to you and those you choose to share it with. Sure – as with any tattoo, some people opt for an infinity symbol purely for its aesthetic value, but behind many there is a deeper meaning and a story to tell.
If you’re looking to make a stronger statement or express a specific idea with your infinity tattoo, you could consider combining the symbol with other elements, such as writing or other symbols, to highlight what it means to you.
The infinity symbol makes a great tattoo on its own – minimalistic and elegant in its simplicity. However, as mentioned above, it also works really well when combined with other elements into a more complex design with deeper or clearer meaning. Popular designs include:
- Infinity symbol with a name – if your infinity tattoo is meant as a token of affection for your other half, consider including their name in the design. Typically, the name would be worked into one of the loops of the symbol as part of the line. With some names (depending on the font you choose and the letters in the name), the line can even remain unbroken, making for a nicely flowing design. Handwriting or cursive fonts are the most popular choice here, as the rounded shapes fit in well visually with the loops of the symbol. Adding the name next to or below the symbol is also an option worth considering.
- Infinity symbol with lettering – ‘hope’, ‘love’, ‘life’, and ‘friendship’ are all popular words to be worked into the line of the infinity symbol, in the same way a name would be.
- Infinity symbol with a quote – if you’re looking for a longer piece of writing in your tattoo, the infinity symbol could appear next to the writing or, in more complex designs, be worked into the lettering. Consider the logos, described above, which incorporate the infinity symbol in stylized lettering: double ‘o’s could be replaced with the infinity symbol, as could other rounded letters where they appear next to each other (for example, ‘co’ or ‘od’). This type of design will require you or your chosen tattoo artist to get more creative and it may take some effort to find a way to work the symbol into the writing without making the text illegible or unbalanced, but it’s totally possible.
- Anchor infinity tattoo – you’re likely to see quite a lot of these when looking at images of infinity symbol tattoos. In this design, the anchor is usually worked into the line of the infinity, and is usually meant to symbolize stability and strength.
- Infinity symbol with other small symbols – an infinity symbol with a small, line-drawn heart next to it is a popular choice. Another example of layered symbols is an infinity symbol stylized to look like an arrow (with the fletching on one side and the arrowhead on the other). The yin and yang is also an interesting option – an ancient Chinese symbol meaning two seemingly opposing forces completing and complimenting each other. Arrows, hearts, and other symbols have their own meaning of course, so by combining them with the infinity symbol you create a whole new layer of meaning for both.
- Cross infinity tattoos – the infinity symbol is often combined with a simple image of a cross to denote eternal or endless faith in religious belief.
- Matching infinity tattoos – the infinity symbol is a common choice for matching tattoos for couples, friends, and family members. It’s easy to see why – matching tattoos are usually meant to symbolize eternal love and affection, so there’s hardly a more fitting design to use than the symbol of infinity itself. On top of that, the standard infinity symbol is very simple, meaning it can look exactly the same on each person – something that may not be achievable with more complex or larger designs.
- Double infinity symbol – an interesting variation on the basic infinity symbol design is the use of two interlocked infinity symbols. This results in an intricate-looking tattoo, less obvious at first sight. These designs are often meant to represent two souls being together forever.
- Ouroboros infinity symbol – as we’ve already seen, the infinity symbol has been tied to the ouroboros – the snake eating its own tail, having no real beginning or end. A tattoo of an infinity-shaped ouroboros will be more detailed and eye-catching than a plain infinity symbol.
- Infinity symbol with birds – birds are among the most popular elements for tattoos. They tend to suggest freedom and perspective, so combining images of birds with the infinity symbol carries a clear meaning of endless freedom and refusing to be restricted or restrained. This kind of design can look particularly great with the bird(s) in full color and the infinity symbol in black, allowing for the two elements to remain distinct and clearly visible for what they are.
- Color infinity symbol – remember that your infinity tattoo doesn’t necessarily have to be all black! There are plenty of interesting and great-looking examples of tattoo designs out there, combining the infinity symbol with splashes of color – usually as background. This type of design can look great both in a more traditional aesthetic and as a watercolor-style tattoo.
Infinity tattoo placements
Owing to the simplicity of the symbol itself, an infinity tattoo can be scaled down to truly miniscule sizes – even less than a centimeter. This makes it an ideal design choice for placements that might be too small for other tattoos – such as the side of your finger or your earlobe. As such, an infinity symbol design can be the perfect option for your first tattoo, especially if you’re a bit apprehensive about the tattooing process (and the pain!).
Simple designs will work best on smaller areas in general – such as your wrist, foot, or the back of your neck. If the design requires more space, your chest, hip, legs, or lower stomach could work really well. On your arms, the infinity symbol can be worked into a sleeve or a half-sleeve, provided you’re ready for such a commitment!
Then again, keep in mind that your chosen design doesn’t have to cover the entire area where it’s going to be placed. For instance, small designs placed on your arm – such as right above your elbow, for example – can look great. Most tattoo artists nowadays work from stencils, and will be happy to place the stencil over several areas of your body for you to see what the tattoo might look like in different places.
Arguably the best thing about using the infinity symbol in your tattoo is that it’s highly versatile and can be worked into almost any image and tattoo style, from watercolor to tribal, and combined with just about any object or symbol for a further layer of meaning. It’s all about what your tattoo will mean to you! While you ponder the matters of eternity and endlessness, have a look through our gallery below for some awesome-looking inspiration.