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Rihanna Tattoo Meanings: See All the Pour It Up Singer's Tattoos and the Significance Behind Her Body Art

First Posted: Jan 09, 2014 06:43 PM EST
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Rihanna is known for her love of tattoos. By now, she may be quite used to going under the needle, and continues to add on to her awesome body art collection. The "Pour It Up" singer flaunts her inked up body whatever chance she gets -- whether on her vacation in Barbados, clad in a variety of skimpy, barely-there bikinis or on her racy, provocative music videos. Check out all of her 22 tattoos listed in chronological order and discover the significant meanings behind them!

1. Music note on ankle

Most of Rihanna's tattoos are fairly small -- just like her first tattoo on the front of her right foot. The music note tattoo is believed to be done some time in 2006. It consists of a treble clef, which is the first image tattoo on her ankle, followed by a sixteenth note that is not filled in. The "Please Don't Stop the Music" singer's tattoo was inspired by her music career, when she was just starting out in the music industry, as well as her love and passion for music.

2. Pisces sign behind ear

Rihanna's second tattoo is a Pisces sign just behind her right ear. The tattoo was done along with the music notes on her foot in 2006 by a famous Brazilian artist, who makes his clients book three years in advance. Luckily, the "Diamonds" singer was in Tokyo at the same time as him so she got it inked without any wait at all. The meaning of her Pisces tattoo is clearly a celebration of her astrological sign, as the singer was born on February 20, 1988, making her a Pisces.

3. Sanskrit prayer on hip

Arguably the sexiest of all Rihanna's tattoos is an ancient Sanskrit prayer that stretches from just above her waist to the top of her hip on the right side of her body. The tattoo, which she got it done in 2007, is from the Sanatana Dharma (Hindu scripture) Bhagavad Gita 10.4-5 and is supposed to translate to "forgiveness, honesty, suppression, and control." Unfortunately, it was misspelled and translated to "long suffering, truthfulness, self-restraint, inward calm, fear and fearlessness" instead. In addition to the incorrect translation, her tattoo is also missing the rest of the original prayer, which reads "pleasure, pain, birth, death." Apparently, a couple of slight differences in the dots and shapes of the Hindu prayer make incorrect translation.

4. Star inside ear

This probably might be the most painful and difficult to get out of her tattoos. Rihanna got an outline of star in the top part of her left ear. She got the simple and unique tattoo in the Village of New York City, just stopping in the parlor with her friend. "My best friend from Barbados was here so we had to do something crazy," she said. "She got one too."

5. Arabic on ribcage

The Arabic tattoo on the "Right Now" singer's ribcage reads, "Al Hurria fi Al Maseeh," which translates to "Freedom in God." It is placed on her left side of her ribcage, just below her breast, and is written in the traditional Arabic writing practice, right to left. The tattoo itself, however, is very untraditional, since getting your body inked at all is considered unlawful in the Islam religion. Some people also claim that the literal translation is "Freedom in Christ." The Barbadian singer's childhood was not easy, and her tattoos seem to be a way to express the strength, passion and freedom she has found in adulthood.

6. Stars down the back of neck

This is one of Rihanna's most visible and famous tattoos. The stars going down the back of her neck and onto the back of her right should blade were started by a tattoo artist in Los Angeles. The first part of the stars tattoo was limited to the back of the singer's neck and consisted of small black stars and larger outlined stars, not going past her shoulders. Then, the tattoo was completed in New York City by her favorite tattoo artist, Bang Bang, who added a trail of more stars with larger black stars and more of a variety of sizes. The stars match her former boyfriend Chris Brown's trio of stars behind his ear.

7. Skull on back of ankle

Rihanna got a tattoo of a skull during her stay in Miami in 2008. The cute and girly tattoo is on her left ankle, and it is one of her few tattoos that contain color. A skull and crossbones usually have a significance of danger, however the hazardous element is neutralized by the red or pink hair bow on top of the cartoon-ish and rudimentary skull and crossbones. In addition, her ex-boyfriend Chris Brown has a skull tattooed on both of his hands with a halo inked above each skull. Whether it has anything to do with the R&B singer's hand tattoos or not, the "Monster" singer's fairly small tattoo certainly stands out.

8. "Love" on finger

The "We Found Love" singer had the word "Love" written in a simple yet sophisticated italic font on the inside of the middle finger of her left hand. The tattoo was done in 2008 by one of her regular tattoo artists in Los Angeles. It is placed so it does not get shown unless she sticks up her middle finger or gives the peace "v" sign.

9. "Shhh..." on finger

In June 2008, Rihanna got another finger tattoo -- "Shhh..." is on the index finger of her right hand. This one is the most copied of her tattoos: other celebrities Lindsay Lohan and Lily Allen, Cher Lloyd, as well as many of the singer's fans, got one exactly like the singer's. The premise is that the tattoo will be revealed when she makes gesture, holding her finger to her lips to shush someone, without having to say a word.

10. Roman numerals on shoulder

Rihanna also got roman numerals "XI.IV.LXXXVI" inked on her left shoulder in June 2008. The date "4.11.1986" is her best friend and manager Melissa Forde's birthday. To mark their close friendship and dedication, Melissa got the same noticeable tattoo with Rihanna's birthday as well.

11. Tribal dragon claw on hand

Rihanna got a geometric design tribal tattoo while in New Zealand during her November 2008 tour. The dragon claw with small hibiscus runs from her wrist, past her thumb, and towards her right index finger. The exotic tattoo was done in the traditional style of Maori people in New Zealand. The method of tattooing, using uhi or chisels, makes the skin a bit raised and rough rather than a smooth surface. The intricate tribal tattoo also matches her former boyfriend Chris Brown's tattoo on the same hand. "It's tribal. It represents strength and love," said Rihanna. "It's their traditional way of tattooing. I always wanted [one]. It hurt like hell!"

12. Little gun on side

A little gun tattoo was carefully inked across the "Man Down" singer's right ribcage, below her armpit, by a famous tattoo artist Bang Bang in March 2009. Rihanna originally give a tattoo as a birthday gift to her friend, however at the same time, she decided to get one for herself. The tattoo stirred controversy because it was done in the midst of her abuse rumors while with ex Chris Brown. Rihanna has also been seen wearing a little gun necklace as well. It seems that the gun symbolizes self-empowerment and her gangster side.

13. "Never a Failure, Always a Lesson" on shoulder

In December 2009, Rihanna got a tattoo of her personal motto "Never a Failure, Always a Lesson" mirrored on her right shoulder blade, just above her breast. The self-motivating ink was written backwards cursive writing to remind her every time she looks in the mirror. "I asked her why she wanted that and she said, 'It's kind of my motto in life for everything,'" said the tattoo artist. "Instead of considering things to be mistakes, considering them lessons... She said that she wanted to do it in gray, rather than black, because she wanted it to be more subtle... She didn't want it to draw too much attention."

14. "rebelle fleur" on neck

Rihanna got a tattoo of "rebelle fleur" written in script on the back her neck towards her left ear at Eastside Ink in New York City in August 2010. The tattoo translates to "rebel flower" however, many claim that the words should be reversed to translate correctly and be grammatically correct, since the adjective usually comes before the noun in French. "Rebelle Fleur translates to rebel flower, NOT rebellious flower," the singer said in a text message to the artist Bang Bang. "It's 2 nouns so in that case fleur does not HAVE to be first! Fyi, cuz they will ask."

15. "Thug Life" on knuckles

Rihanna got "Thug Life" written on the knuckles of each of her fingers in white ink. The ink is an obvious tribute to the late infamous rapper Tupac, who started the hip-hop group Thug Life back in 1993 and had a Thug Life tattoo across his stomach. The "Rude Boy" singer is definitely letting out her gangster side with this knuckle tattoo.

16. Cross on collarbone

Rihanna got a small cross tattooed on her collarbone in March 2012. The tattoo seems innocent enough, however critics have faulted the singer for getting the cross in red and deliberately putting the design on a slant. According to some, it features a symbol commonly used by the Freemasons and represents her godlessness. "We cut the color with water, so it'll end up being light -- like the 'rebelle' tattoo on her neck," said the renowned tattoo artist Bang Bang in an interview, describing the superstar's cross ink. He added that Rihanna decided to place her tattoo on her collarbone because it is easy for her to hide it with a necklace but also can be in plain sight. "She loved it," he said.

17. Tibetan "lover" on hip

Rihanna has not spoken at all in public about her hip tattoo, so when she showed off her figure in several risqué photo shoots back in early 2012, many were trying to solve the mystery of the singer's tattoo in a foreign language. The tattoo just above her butt simply means "lover" in Tibetan script.

18. Falcon on ankle

Rihanna decided to cover up her first tattoo of music notes and replaced it with a large Egyptian falcon. On June 16, 2012, she shared a snapshot of the ink on Twitter with the following caption, "Falcon: a light that shines in the darkness! Never close their eyes during sleep." The tattoo, which was inspired by a 2,300 year-old artifact housed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, is inked on the inside of her right ankle. It also appears to be in the shape of a handgun. "It's the first tattoo she wanted as a teen," said tattoo artist Bang Bang, who worked on the ink. "She wanted it across her back back then." The "Where Have You Been" singer also explained the meaning of her falcon tattoo: "Back in the day, they would carve into the walls and they would carve a falcon, because they didn't have another way of saying a king in the sky."

19. Goddess Isis on chest

Rihanna has an impressive spread of the Egyptian goddess Isis, who was worshiped by ancient Egyptians as the ideal mother and wife, on her chest, with the figure's large wingspan spreading out just below her breasts. The tattoo was inked as a tribute to her late beloved grandmother, Ciara "Dolly" Brathwaite, who passed away after battling with cancer. The Barbadian beauty shared an image of her ink via Twitter with a caption, "Goddess Isis - Complete Woman - Model for future generations - #GRANGRANDOLLY - always in and on my heart."

20. Queen Nefertiti on side

Rihanna added more ancient Egyptian tattoo in February 2012. She first showed off her tattoo of Queen Nefertiti in a photoshoot with Terry Richardson. Queen Nefertiti was an iconic vision of true beauty in the ancient world, having many titles, including Hereditary Princess, Great of Praises, Lady of Grace and Sweet of Love.

21. Traditional Maori tattoo on hand

Rihanna added a second Maori tattoo to her body art collection during the New Zealand leg of her "Diamonds" world tour. She once again went under a chisel and a hammer to get the excruciating yet traditional Ta Moko tattoo, which its elaborate lines and arrow-shaped symbols run from her fingertips all the way to her right forearm. The "Birthday Cake" singer wished to get the ink in tribute to the indigenous people of New Zealand.

22. Henna-inspired tattoo over traditional tattoo

Guess Rihanna was not too satisfied with her previous traditional Maori tribal tattoo she got in New Zealand. The singer flew both Keith "Bang Bang" McCurdy, who has done 13 of her various tattoos, and his colleague Cally-Jo out to the Dominican Republic to cover it up with a new intricate Indian henna art-inspired tattoo. The two famed tattoo artists worked together for a lengthy 11-hour session to create the design and the implementation of the tattoo. "We were drawing and changing things. I'd take a break and Cally-Jo would draw, then I'd draw," said Bang Bang of the collaborative work. "The inspiration was henna art, we wanted something really decorative, feminine and sexy." He added, "she had something preexisting on her hand so it was a little bit of a cover up, but also making it look good... We needed to work with what she already had." He said that the challenging piece "had elements to it that were very unique, covering up pieces of it, combining pieces of it, making up new pieces."

Rihanna previously mentioned that her tattoos carry significant meanings. "My tattoos are all spiritual and show how I feel about religion," she said. "I have a falcon which is an Egyptian falcon and is supposed to stand for God."

In addition, the Bajan beauty expressed that tattoos for her are like an addiction: "I like hanging out in tattoo shops. I am so intrigued by tattoos. It's an entire culture, and I study it. Sometimes I go with friends, or just by myself. I get bum-rushed, but I don't care. I don't take security."

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