Buttercup Tattoos: Symbolism, Meanings and More

Buttercup Tattoos: Symbolism, Meanings and More

When it comes to simple designs and bright colors, the buttercup flower is a top choice in the world of flower tattoos. Not only that, but this flower is known for its positive associations with confidence.

The buttercup tattoo has an aesthetic value for its simple design and bright coloration. It’s also a popular choice for symbolizing encouragement, confidence, and a sense of self worth.

This article explores the history and symbolism of the buttercup flower in tattoos, as well as the symbolism behind it, and the most popular designs.

What Is The History of Buttercup Tattoos?

There are no specific historical references to buttercups as a tattoo image. They aren’t one of the more traditional flowers used, possibly because of the childish associations this flower holds.

As a flower, they are native to both North America and Europe. Though the yellow buttercup gets the most attention, there are other varieties.

In spite of its lack of prominence as a tattoo, the flower itself is featured in several myths and legends throughout the world.


Historical Significance of Buttercup Flowers:

Buttercups have long enjoyed a place in children’s games, though at one time they were used by slaves attempting to hide their marks of ownership as they escaped.

Most commonly, they are used in a childish game, in which the flowers are held up under the chin. The amount of reflected yellow ‘glow’ from the petals is meant to symbolize how much you like butter.

There are several legends surrounding the origin of the buttercup.

Greek Legend of Ranunculus:

According to this legend, Ranunculus was a singer from Libya, with an amazing voice, comparable to Orpheus. He gave a performance for the woodland gods, and was so focused on the music that he collapsed and died of exhaustion.

Orpheus found him, and transformed his body into small yellow flowers as a tribute. This is allegedly where the flowers get their Latin name.

In Persia, this legend has a slightly different interpretation, in which a wealthy prince died pining for the love of woodland nymph, and was transformed into a flower to remind her of her folly in rejecting him.


Cows and Milk:

This legend involves a farmer, whose prize cow gave sweeter, better milk than any other cow in the region. After watching her, he discovered that she often ate small yellow flowers, rather than grass, and determined that these flowers were the source of the milk’s quality.

A similar legend claims that buttercups are what makes butter yellow.

Both of these legends have since been refuted, as buttercups are toxic to both cows and humans if ingested, and most cows leave buttercups alone.

The Miser and the Fairies:

According to this legend, a miser was walking across a field inhabited by fairies. He refused to share his gold, or offer payment for crossing through their land.

As punishment, the fairies poked a hole in his purse, so that all the coins fell out one by one as he crossed the field. The coins were then transformed into yellow flowers, so the miser would never find them again.

North American Tribal Mythology:

Some tribes refer to the buttercup flower as ‘Coyote’s Eyes’, in reference to a myth where Coyote’s original eyes were stolen by an Eagle, and he used the flowers to fashion himself new eyes.


What Do Buttercups Symbolize?

Buttercups have a number of symbolic meanings. As flowers, these meanings include:

  • Neatness: The simple, five-petal design is thought to symbolize an organized mind
  • Childishness or Youth: A reference to their use in children’s games
  • Joy/Happiness: For their bright color
  • Friendship: For youthful closeness
  • Charm/Humility: In keeping with their bright and simplistic appearance

While North American and European buttercups are mostly yellow, Middle Eastern buttercups come in other colors. These different colors carry their own individual meanings.

  • Yellow: Joy, Happiness and New Beginnings
  • Green: Good Fortune, Youth, Renewal and Optimism
  • Pink: Romantic Interest, Platonic Love, or Youthful Interest
  • Purple: Dignity, Royalty, Success and Grace
  • Orange: Enthusiasm, Energy, Power, Friendship and Recovery
  • Red: Passion, Healing, and Devotion

What Do Buttercup Tattoos Mean?

As a tattoo, Buttercups are often done in yellow, and meant to symbolize Confidence and Self-Worth.

They are also thought to represent the Power of Words.

While these are their most common symbolic meanings, they are far from the only meaning these tattoos can carry.

Buttercups in tattoos can also represent things like life-long friendships, or childish joy.

Multiple blooms in reds, oranges and yellows might symbolize joy in new beginnings, or renewed happiness during or following recovery from a difficult time in one’s life.

Likewise, the same flowers may be used as a tattoo to symbolize well wishes for another, or as a reminder to find hope and joy in the face of troubling times.


Buttercup Tattoos With Other Flowers or Symbols:

As with many flower images, the potential meanings can vary widely, and a specific meaning is often known only to the one who wears it.

However, the almost universal positive connotations of the buttercup suggest that, whatever the flower is shown with, the general meaning is one of renewed hope, passion, and well-being, as well as confidence.

Paired with an animal, name, or other symbol, this is most likely to represent someone or something who inspires positive feelings and encourages confidence.

Where Do Buttercup Tattoos Usually Go?

The most common location for a buttercup tattoo seems to be either the forearm or the ankle, often with one or two smaller flowers.

They are also commonly found on the upper arms.

For a more personal meaning, they might be applied to the back, hips and sides, but the inspirational nature of the flower makes these locations a less common choice.


Styles and Characteristics of Buttercup Tattoos:

Buttercups are most often done in yellow, or without color, as illustrated or sketch-style designs.

Both versions often come with short, inspirational quotes, such as ‘lighten up, buttercup’, or similar plays on the name.

Other times, multiple blooms or arrangements will be shown with a name, or a phrase commemorating another person.

There is also a popular representation known as the ‘Virgo Buttercup’, involving a stylized form of the horoscope sign Virgo paired with the flower.


Regardless of the style, there’s no denying that the buttercup is a bright and cheerful addition to any tattoo, and an excellent choice for conveying messages of hope, renewal, and youthful confidence. If you’re looking for positive symbolism in your floral tattoos, this could be exactly the flower you want.


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