Parallel Line Tattoos: History, Meanings & Designs

Parallel Line Tattoos: History, Meanings & Designs

If you’re looking for something simple and understated with a number of subtle meanings, you might look into a parallel line tattoo. This deceptively simple imagery can hide a wealth of complex meanings and details.

Parallel lines comprise a very simple and basic design, but their width, number and orientation can present a multitude of meanings. A simple parallel line tattoo can have a meaning or representation that is anything but simple.

This article explores the history, meanings and symbolism behind the use of parallel lines in tattoos.


What Is The History of Parallel Line Tattoos?

Parallel line tattoos are some of the oldest tattoos invented. They are found in tattoos used by many ancient cultures.

Parallel lines are part of many abstract designs from many different cultures. Recently, they have become a design of their own.

When they became a design all their own isn’t specifically known.

However, there is some indication that wide black parallel lines came into use as a tattooed version of the black armbands used by several groups to represent the loss of someone close to them.


What Do Parallel Line Tattoos Symbolize?

Parallel lines have several meanings, based on the numbers and sometimes the thickness.

Two even parallel lines sometimes symbolizes an armband, worn in honor of someone who has passed away. These are usually done as armbands, encircling the forearm.

Two lines in a parallel line tattoo can also represent strength, and courage. They also represent luck and protection.

Three parallel lines as stripes are often used to symbolize Movement, Balance and Harmony. This is sometimes known as a trigram.

Three parallel lines can also represent continuity and harmony.

Because of their simplicity, parallel lines can also represent minimalism,

Squiggly parallel lines are sometimes used to symbolize the journey of life.

Wavy parallel lines sometimes symbolize water.


What Meaning Do Parallel Line Tattoos Have?

One of the most common meanings for a parallel line tattoo, especially done in solid black, is mourning the loss of a loved one. Solid black armband style tattoos are often used to represent the remembrance of loved ones who have passed away.

When used as mourning bands, some people use one band per loss. Others use a single band as a representation of all losses mourned.

Since the time of the Vietnam War, parallel line tattoos have also come to represent strength and courage to fight for one’s convictions.

In recent years, parallel lines in rainbow colors have come to represent the strength to stand for the LGBTQ community.

Tattoos done as circles and armbands can also sometimes represent unending circumstances. Parallel lines never end or intersect, so parallel lines can represent a hope for something to be permanent.

Parallel zigzag lines are also used as the sign of Aquarius, and may mean that the person wearing them is an Aquarius. Or it may represent a significant person in their life who is an Aquarius.

They may also represent someone who was fond of water, or a personal connection to water in some form.

A three line tattoo is often used to represent harmony and balance. This can represent a hope for balance and harmony in one’s life.

Worn on the bicep, parallel lines are thought to represent strength and luck. They can sometimes represent a person’s motivation and determination to stand strong.

Parallel lines are also sometimes used to represent symmetry. A symmetry in circumstances, or in nature. They can be used in a tattoo to represent a structure of balance, or a sense of symmetry.

Short parallel lines can also represent a minimalist mindset, and perhaps a desire for simplicity in one’s life.


Where Do Parallel Line Tattoos Usually Go?

There’s really no limit to where you can place a parallel line tattoo.

The most common choice for parallel line tattoos is the forearm, where they are often used to form tattooed armbands around the forearm or wrist.

Similar armband style designs have often been worn on the lower legs, around the calves or ankles.

Armband style tattoos are sometimes worn on the biceps as well, to represent armbands worn for mourning or other purposes.

For parallel lines that don’t form a full circle, the number of locations is much greater. A common example is shorter parallel lines on the forearm or the hand.

A common choice is to place small stripes across the fingers. Sometimes these are even done as diagonal lines, creating the impression of one smooth line when the fingers are together.

Other chosen locations are rarer, but include the ear and the ribcage. They have also been incorporated into other designs in other locations, such as the back of the neck or the shoulder.

Styles and Characteristics of Parallel Line Tattoos:

Parallel lines have varied characteristics, aside from the requirement that they never cross each other.

– Parallel lines are usually done in black, rather than color. This is especially true of ones used like tattooed armbands

– Parallel line tattoos vary in thickness. They can be thin as a pencil drawing, barely noticeable, or extremely wide, though the lines are rarely more than an inch or so in width.

– The most common depiction is simple horizontal lines, but they can also be displayed vertically or diagonally.

– They are sometimes used to create negative spaces in other designs. They may also serve as a border for a design.

– The number of lines varies according to personal preference, anywhere from two to a dozen.

– Lines are usually straight, but they can be done in curves, chevrons, circles, and even abstract patterns.

– Parallel lines can be drawn in waves or zig zags, like lightning bolts.

– Sometimes parallel lines are done to create a stylized abstract design, as if lines were drawn with the different points of a comb.



Whatever reason you decide to get a parallel line tattoo, there are a number of meanings you can attribute to it, and a number of ways you can apply the design. Whether as armbands or straight lines, curves or waves, you can adapt any set of parallel lines to whatever meaning and imagery you want.

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