Tattoos have become part of mainstream culture over the last few years. Many people have them, including the Prime Minister’s wife, Samantha Cameron.

At one stage it was very fashionable to get a Chinese or Japanese character tattoo. Now it’s largely fallen out of vogue. So if you’re thinking of getting a tattoo, it might be worth thinking about the deeper meaning behind your chosen symbol.

A handy Guardian guide explains some meanings:

2 Anchor
By the late 1800s, 90% of those serving in the British navy were tattooed and sailing iconography is still influential – particularly with the trend for retro “romantic” tattoos. “Tattoos display an individual’s membership to a particular group in society,” writes sociologist Tony Lawrence. Practically, tattoos could help identify drowned sailors. Their meanings, however, depend on the era and even the specific ship. An anchor could mean crossing the equator, the soul of a dead sailor or symbolise hope – we may no longer take perilous journeys on high seas but still seek to “anchor” our self. According to Dr Matt Lodder, art historian at Reading University, rather than having a particular meaning, the anchor has also become an icon of tattooing – like the broken heart and the swallow.

10 Dreamcatcher
One of Miley Cyrus’s 14-odd tattoos, the dreamcatcher, is also sported by Zac Efron. According to Native American mythology, this is a protective covering for infants that stops the bad (in this case: paparazzi, scandal, stalkers) while letting the good (cash, fame, screaming fans) pass through. Urgh.

Take a look at the full article for meanings of some other common symbols, including Sam Cam’s dolphin.