What Is the Meaning of an Upside-Down Peace Sign Tattoo?

Tattoos are used as a form of body decoration or adornment. They are also used to convey personal messages. The peace symbol has served both forms. The upside-down peace symbol, however, has caused debate over its intended meaning.

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The peace symbol was designed in Britain in 1958 by Gerald Holtom for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). The peace symbol shape was taken from the naval flag code used on runways and aircraft carriers, with the code letters “N” and “D” standing for nuclear disarmament. In naval code, the letter "N" is represented by a person holding two flags, with arms stretched down at a 45-degree angle. The letter "D" is represented by a person holding two flags, with one arm straight up and the other down.

Protestor and peace symbol
Protestor and peace symbol (Image: Stefan Zaklin/Getty Images News/Getty Images)


There are several theories as to the meaning of an upside-down peace sign. In culture and society, upside symbols are often used to convey the opposite of something. For tattoo wearers of the upside-down peace symbol, this may mean anti-peace or indicate a pro-war perspective. Other theories state the peace symbol was incorrectly constructed in the first place. They believe it was meant to symbolize the tree of life and that if you invert it, it properly depicts this. Additionally, there is speculation that an upside-down peace symbol is an upside-down and broken cross, possibly denoting anti-Christian views.

People surround symbol made with candles
People surround symbol made with candles (Image: Chris McGrath/Getty Images News/Getty Images)

Fun Fact

The peace symbol was made for the CND but deliberately never copyrighted. As a symbol of freedom, everyone is able to use it however they please. This has led to uses (or misuses) of the symbol that the CND and the peace movement find distasteful.

Peace symbol sign
Peace symbol sign (Image: Eric Thayer/Getty Images News/Getty Images)


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