Britney Spears' Tattoos: A Complete Guide

Britney Spears has had a rather ... unusual life journey. When she burst onto the scene as a '90s pop princess, she seemed to have the world at her feet, but by the following decade, she was cast in a much sadder role: starring in a cautionary tale about the perils of too much, too soon. At this point in her life, as she approaches her 40th birthday, Spears' name is most apt to evoke sympathy in her fans. Many of her most loyal supporters mourn for the poor little rich girl who's never really been allowed to grow up and root for her to finally find the freedom she deserves.

Whatever you may think about Spears, she is still hanging in there and keeping her head up despite all the turmoil in her personal life and in her career. She's also, it would seem, been marking the ups and downs of the past decades with a few permanent souvenirs of the body art variety. While Spears hasn't offered much explanation regarding the personal significance of each of the nine different tattoos she's acquired over the years, each one likely has great meaning to her.

Several of Britney Spears' tattoos may be faith-based

While none of Britney Spears' music is overtly religious, she did kick off her music career by singing in a Baptist church choir (via Deseret News). She then went on to study the mystical branch of Judaism known as Kabbalah when it was trendy in the early '00s, but according to a recent Instagram video, she may have converted to Catholicism. While Spears' religious affiliation may flip-flop at times, there's no doubt that spirituality plays a major role in her life, and several of her tattoos seem to speak to this.

Oh the left side of Spears' bikini line, she has a tattoo of a cross, something Body Art Guru reveals dates back to a particularly difficult period in her life when she may have felt the need for intervention from a higher power. They also feel that the tiny triangle that adorns her right hand between her thumb and index finger could possibly symbolize the Holy Trinity. (At the same time Spears got the triangle tat, she also had a black star added to that same hand, but Pretty Designs says the star was removed about a month later). Some feel that Spears' first tattoo, a fairy on her lower back, could be seen as a holy messenger, thus putting it into the religious category as well, but others feel that it reflects her desire to soar on fairy wings. It could also be that Spears simply just likes fairies.

Other tattoos are (maybe) just for fun

In 2003, Britney Spears got a black butterfly and vine tattooed on her right foot and something Pretty Designs says is a small green daisy on one of her right toes. Per the outlet, "Flying creatures usually represent a desire for freedom and it seems likely that Britney's enormous success was starting to overwhelm her, making her feel, 'hemmed in.'"

On the opposite side of Spears' bikini line from the cross, she has something that falls into the common category of tattoo "fails" –- a Chinese character that didn't quite mean what she thought it did. Body Art Guru says the character was supposed to mean "mysterious," but the real translation was something more along the lines of "strange." She later had that 2001 tattoo modified by making it the center of a small flower or starburst design, although we don't know for sure if this was an attempt to correct the goof, as the Chinese character is still clearly visible.

While temporary tattoos are often thought of as something either for kids or commitment-phobes who are not yet ready for permanent ink, sometimes they can be a way for tattoo lovers to play around with a new look for a short while. Spears herself has sported a few temporary tats from time to time, ranging from extremely simple ones that look like she might well have applied them herself to at least one very elaborate (and very large) custom design.

Britney Spears has even experimented with temporary tattoos

The following year, she got a tattoo to match one that her ex-hubby Kevin Federline already had: a pair of dice showing the lucky number 7. Britney Spears' dice, which are located just below her left wrist, are pink, while Federline's are blue. As for any special meaning behind the twosome's tats, it seems likely that the duo may have been feeling pretty fortunate at a time when both of their stars were on the rise. Spears has a tattoo on the opposite side just below her right wrist, this one of pink or red "kissy lips." This tat may not have such an optimistic meaning, though, as it was done on the same day in 2007 that she got the cross tattoo and also shaved her head, per Pretty Designs.

Best Tattoo notes that Britney has a fondness for star tattoos on her neck and shoulder area, but the fact that she sticks to using temporary ones in this area allows her to move them around — and likely to change their size and color — as the mood strikes. She also sported a full-sleeve temporary tat from Miami Ink for a time, something that allowed her to try out this popular trend even though she's more partial to smaller tattoos.

The mystery of Britney's disappearing neck tattoo

On the back of Britney Spears' neck, she has another tattoo that fits into the religious or spiritual category. It's the Hebrew phrase "Mem Hey Shin," something that Britney says means "healing." According to Body Art Guru, this tat dates back to 2004, and was reportedly suggested to Spears by Madonna. While that source indicates that Spears had her Hebraic ink removed in 2008, this was apparently not the case. She shared a recent Instagram post where she shows it off and calls it "my favorite tattoo," though admitting "ironically you never see it" as it's hidden under her hair.

A few weeks later, though, Spears posted a nude waist-up selfie on Instagram in which the back of her neck is clearly visible, but not the tattoo. Neither can the fairy tat be seen on her back, which prompted some commenters to speculate that the photo may not even have been of Britney at all. The singer responded a day later with an Insta-explanation: "Ok so ... I edited out my tattoo on my neck cause I wanted to see what it would look like clean ... and yeah I like it better so while you guys are talking behind my back go ahead and kiss my a** haters." If she thought this would clear up the controversy, she was sadly mistaken, since the comment thread once again reflected fans' doubts that Spears is even controlling her own Instagram at this point.