Tattoo Ideas: What can go wrong with Hebrew tattoos?

If you are planning on getting a Hebrew tattoo, even if you are copying a design from the web you really need to get the final version of the Hebrew tattoo seen by a Hebrew speaker before you go to print, there are just too many things that can go wrong! If you have a perfectly written Hebrew tattoo design and it’s written vertically it could lose it’s meaning, in fact there are so many things that can go wrong when getting a tattoo in Hebrew that you need to get a Hebrew speaker to verify it.
Other things that can go wrong when getting a Hebrew tattoo:
Back to front
Hebrew is written from right to left, (English from left to right) so that if yourtattoo artist or tattoo designer doesn’t know Hebrew they could very easily tattoo you with the writing running in the wrong direction. Imagine an English language tattoo written from right left – it loses all meaning and instead becomes a joke for Hebrew speakers.
Mirror Writing
If the tattoo artist can’t read Hebrew they could mistakenly give you a Hebrew tattoo with all or some of the letters facing the wrong direction.
Upside down/vertical and horizontal
Tattoos with Hebrew script which are taken from the web and then spun around to make them vertical can lose their meaning, for example the letter Vav which looks just like a straight line is sometimes left as — instead of I. If the tattoo artist has no knowledge of Hebrew he could apply your tattoo up side down.
Grammatical Errors
Grammatically Hebrew is very different from English and often the word order differs from English, and questions are often written without a WH word as in English.
The grammatically correct word order in Hebrew is different from English, so even if your tattoo artist knows the Hebrew words you still might end up with abad Hebrew tattoo. For example “With God’s Help” in Hebrew could end up as “Help God”; Mommy’s Boy in Hebrew would come out as “Boy Mommy” if the word order were mixed up. If the tattoo artist finds the Hebrew for Naughty and the Hebrew for Girl, and then simply tattoos you with these two Hebrew words to say:
“Naughty Girl” the Hebrew will read – “Girl Naughty!”
Wrong words and letters
  • One Hebrew letter – Yud – looks very much like an apostrophe and could be interchanged by someone not in-the-know or squeezed into a space between two larger letters as an after thought.
  • The words “and”, “to”, “of”, “by” and “a” are all single letter words which unlike English are attached to the word in front of them. There are no stand alone single letter words in Hebrew (like I and a in English). A tattoo artist or tattoo designer who doesn’t know this could easily write these single letter words as separate words and not attached to the following word.
  • Hebrew is a gender specific language, so a tattoo artist who doesn’t know the difference could write a tattoo using the wrong gender. For example with “I love Boys” love would be written either as a male or female.
  • Hebrew words are bases on a three-letter root word, which makes it very easy to make a mistake, just by changing one letter. Hebrew has several letters which sound identical but look completely different, for example the sound “S” can be made by “samech” or “Shin”. A good example of how this could trip up a tattoo artist are the words “happiness” and “wealth” which sound almost the same and are written with only one letter different,” Osher” with an “eyin” is “wealth” and  ”Osher” with an “aleph” is “happiness”.
  • As with English the shape of some Hebrew letters can be extremely similar to the shape of others which when interchanged can change the entire meaning of the Hebrew tattoo. For example daled (ד) and resh(ר), are very similar to the non-Hebrew speaker but the difference in meaning between this word חסד – Mercy, and this word חסר – Missing, could really make a Hebrew tattoo a joke. Always get your Hebrew tattoo designed by a Hebrew speaker!
  • Another possible mistake in a Hebrew script tattoo is due to Hebrew having several letters which are written differently when they are on the end of a word for example - M – מ becomes ם,  P – פ –  becomes – ף.
  • There are also several letters in Hebrew which are written the same way but can  have two different sounds פ can be P or F; ב can be B or V; ש can be SH or S.
  • Hebrew also has dashes and dots used under the letters instead of vowels, but Hebrew speakers (and Hebrew publications) don’t use the dots and dashes they are also not a good thing to use in Hebrew tattoos. They should be left out especially as some of them resemble Hebrew letters or periods.
By now you should be questioning the wisdom of downloading a Hebrew word or phrase to turn into a Hebrew tattoo. Do the research. Get it checked and rechecked before putting ink to skin.
Be sure to treat your fresh, new tattoo nicely. Keep a special salve on it, and keep it covered for a day or two…I know, you want to show it off!


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