Two More Tattoos For the Road

If you’ve been regularly reading this blog, you will know how much I emphasize proper research in obtaining a tattoo in a language of which you are not familiar. I always implore my readers to trust a professional translator or native speaker and then double-check the hell out of what they give you with other professionals or native speakers. With that said, this is once again what can happen if you do not.

The first example today is one that I’ve shown many examples of before. Native speakers of English (and other languages where aspects of grammatical gender have ceased to play a large part in the language) tend not to take the gender of a Hebrew or Aramaic phrase into account. Because of that we end up with problems such as this:

This image is being used under the doctrine of Fair Use.

It reads:

אני לדודי
ani ledodi
I am my beloved’s

ודודי לי
udodi li
And my beloved is mine.

This tattoo was found on the back of a man as a tribute to his wife. Unfortunately, the word דודי dodi (“my beloved”) is in the masculine form: “I am my beloved’s (masculine) and my beloved (masculine) is mine.”

This kind of mistake is one of the most pervasive one that I have seen because the translation is so readily available from any Hebrew edition of the Song of Songs and in English the word “beloved” has no gender.

Now this second one completely broke my heart. According to the owner, his grandfather knew Hebrew, so it was a large part of hearing him speak it during his childhood, so when his grandfather passed away, he wished to have the Hebrew word for “Grandad” tattooed across his back in big large letters. Take a look:

(© Dan O. This portion of the image utilized under Fair Use for criticism and educational purposes.)

In Hebrew… it is jibberish. To someone who speaks English, but knows the Hebrew alphabet, it’s horrifying: It is the English word “Grandad” transliterated backwards in the Hebrew/Aramaic alphabet.


Allow me to leave you with the following thoughts:
  1. Don’t trust what you happen to come across on the web. – A professional (preferably fluent with languages that are not dead or near-dead) translator with a good, strong record is the only way to go. That way, you can trust that you are getting something appropriate.
  2. Get an image of the text. – Don’t rely upon your computer to display a font properly. What had probably happened with the above examples is that their computer did not display Hebrew Unicode in the proper right-to-left format. Also, other problems with encoding can happen, such as mojibake.
  3. Always get a second opinion. – “Measure twice, cut once” the old proverb goes (and for a reason). Always take the time to double-check the text before getting things inked. With things such as dead or nearly-dead languages this can be difficult but not impossible. For Hebrew and Jewish Aramaic, check your local synagogue. For Syriac, track down a Syrian or Assyrian church. For Sanskrit, a Hindu temple or Buddhist monestary. If all else fails, go to your local College or University, and poke around the religion and linguistics departments. If you explain why you want your translation doublechecked, they will sympathize. 🙂 Lastly, AramaicDesigns will double-check Aramaic tattoo translations for you pro bono, so simply email them in.


13 thoughts on “Two More Tattoos For the Road

  1. hey there i wanted to get that tattoo i am my beloveds and my beloved is mine… is this right? אני לדודי ודודי לי ??

    and could u tanslate
    ‘she flys on her own wings’ please would it be able to by tonight as tats getin done tomz?? many thanks

    could u email me

    would be very much apreciated thanks

  2. hey…. i really hope someone could help me with a tranlation of my name : “Nadia Rebecca”…
    it is for at tattoo on my backspine.. really hope someone could help me.. i would like my name in hebrew..

    Nadia Rebecca

  3. Yikes!

    The hub page posted above by ‘Adi’ (on hubpages) actually has some mistakes on it! I’ll be posting another article about some of the images there soon.

    And I reiterate:

    This is what you get “for free.” Mistaken translations.

    If I had more time, I would do more translations pro-bono. Unfortunately at this point in my life I cannot.

    As such, if you are looking for an Aramaic translation, please submit your inquiry to Aramaic Designs:


  4. Regarding the ‘Adi’ post: The tattoos seen on that page are not his/her, it’s not Adi’s blog either. He/she is a visitor that aims to correct such mistakes, as seen on that particular blog. I got help from Adi, pro-bono, on several translations (not including two friends of mine), and they all checked out! Adi is also one of the rare ones that “dots” his hebrew correctly.

  5. Hi, I am a Hebrew speaker and I also saw that Adi on the hubpages, and yes, he/she does know the language properly and all, but I still wouldn’t use his/her service just cos he/she doesnt even bother asking the people about the gender they mean their tattoo to be in (or directed at) and doesn’t tell them that some things translate a bit differently etc., so while it’s nice he/she does it for free it’s really impersonal and am sure people end up with mistakes from that. Better find someone who’ll translate but first actually talk to you and find out exactly what you want, like they do on for example or on other places.

  6. Ive spotted some mistakes on Adi’s blog

    Ive spotted some major mistakes at the Arabic suggestions

    The word: صفاء is written with the Hamza at the beginning instead of at the end like I wrote it…
    (This is the last suggestion)
    There are also mistakes with the other words which I couldn’t find

    In Hebrew the mistakes are by translation, Hufsha is not Freedom by no means! Hofesh is Freedom while Hufsha is Vacation, pretty distinct

    Very funny though!

  7. Hello, sorry to bother you but can you please take the tattoo picture of the lilies down, thank you. I know the person and she would not like that particular picture posted online, as it is an original design even if the translation is wrong, thank you. Any questions feel free to email her at It is per the artist request as well.

  8. Anonymous,

    I respect your request but I must point out the following:

    1) There is no tattoo design with lilies on this page, so I am not sure what image you are referring to.

    2) All tattoo images that I have displayed here were located on websites uploaded by their owners to a public place and most of them I simply hot-link to. If their owner did not wish to have those “particular [pictures] posted online” then it is their responsibility to remove them from the websites from where they originally posted them.

    3) I have tried to contact each owner of each photograph via email for ~2 weeks (give or take) prior to posting here on my blog.

    4) Any and all images of tattoos are used under the Doctrine of Fair Use for purposes of commentary, criticism and education. As such it violates no copyright laws.

    Given those above 4 points, I generally do not acquiesce to requests to have an image of a mistranslation taken down, especially from an anonymous comment.

    If the owner of this image wishes further consideration to be taken, please encourage them to submit a request in writing (via either email or traditional post), themselves. 🙂


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