8 Bold Body Piercings With Meanings That Slay Every Day

Discover how not modern piercings really are by delving into the unique historical meanings behind your favorite ones.

Updated March 5, 2024

Adorning your body with glittering jewelry is a beautiful form of self-expression, and piercings certainly make a statement of their own. For some people, piercings are just a part of their personal aesthetic, others live for the thrill of an alternative look, and in some cultures, they can have deeply spiritual meanings. But for how long the art form's been around, it won't surprise you that there are as many piercing meanings as there are different kinds of piercings. 

Ear Piercings


Lots of us love earrings — maybe you got your ears pierced at the mall or by a professional piercer. The earliest known ear piercing in history was found on Otzi the Iceman. A European mummy that's pierced and tattooed, Otzi roamed the earth (mostly The Alps) around 3300 B.C.E. He was a true Neolithic hunter/gatherer.

In antiquity, having ear piercings was believed to be a symbol of wealth and status, and some even found the practice to have healing benefits following acupuncture points.

In Elizabethan England, it was rather fashionable for noblemen and women to have pierced ears. Similarly, safety pins in place of standard earrings became a symbol of rebellion in the 1970s. 

Today, it's a staple accessory that you can find on people who land on all parts of the gender spectrum. For many, it's lost any cultural meaning and is simply something cool to wear. 

Nose Piercings


Nose hoops are super cute. But in Indian culture, a nostril piercing is believed to protect infants from evil spirits and illness. Piercing someone's nose is also commonly performed as a rite of passage in momentous moments of life like hitting puberty or getting married. The specific placements of the nose piercings and when they're performed vary for each ethnic group in India. 

A septum piercing — the area between the nostrils — was a sign of fierceness in many warrior cultures. It was also a display of wealth and status among the Aztecs and Mayans. Many indigenous tribes view getting one as a coming-of-age ritual. Today, folks pierce their septum for personal reasons, and whatever their reasons are is cool with us.

Fast Fact

It's not just something teens with access to a safety pin try — nose piercings are even mentioned in the Bible

Eyebrow Piercings


Jump in your time machine and head back to the end of Y2K and you're bound to see a litany of half-rejected eyebrow piercings. Eyebrow piercings were all the rage at the start of the millennium. You can still spot scar tissue on the brows of many a Millennial who have since removed their steel posts. 

While there isn't a long romantic history involved, celebs like Scarlett Johanson, Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas, and Jonathan Davis from Korn have all sported this piercing. It certainly draws attention to the upper part of your face, and many a daring soul has adorned themselves with a safety pin in this very spot.

Need to Know

Most piercings heal within 6-8 weeks, though some take a little longer. You'll want to make sure you care for your piercing as it's healing to prevent infection, and if you have any questions be sure to touch base with your piercer. 

Tongue Piercings


If you're thinking about a tongue piercing, prepare for a lot of swelling and an altered speech pattern for a little while. But, many people like having this proto-fidget toy in their mouth and think the uncomfortable healing process is well worth it. 

If we look at history, getting tongue piercings was an important Mayan religious ritual that was rooted in symbolism associated with bravery and bloodletting. Essentially, it was a sacrifice to the gods and commonly practiced by rulers and high priests.

Many indigenous shamans of the American Northwest and the Middle East pierced their tongues in order to enter a trance state. You, however, might pierce yours as a sign of devotion to your significant other — or just because you like the way it looks.

Need to Know

One tongue piercing that's fallen out of favor with piercers is the snake-eye. What makes this piercing so dangerous is that it ties the two muscles running parallel in your tongue together and can lead to serious complications. 

Cheek & Lip Piercings


If you've watched True Detective: North Country, you'd be admiring Kali Reis' beautiful cheek piercings (along with her acting skills). It's a bold piercing that exudes confidence and a bit of intrigue. The show is set in Alaska, and this type of piercing is thought to have originated there as well. Maritime foragers in the Aleutian islands off the coast of Alaska had cheek piercings in ancient times to indicate rank and territory.

The labret piercing, which is a piercing attached to the lip, has an ancient history steeped in femininity and beauty. Women would increase the piercing's gauge as they hit different milestones. This adornment spanned various cultures across time and space. Different cultural meanings range from getting them placed in a monumental moment like marriage to using them as an elaborate mark of membership in a higher class.

Related: Cartilage Earrings: Common Types & Styles

Nipple Piercings


There are conflicting beliefs about when nipple piercings became a thing, but some evidence points to them having American origins in the Karankawa people circa the 19th century. Others point to the 14th Century, where some women pierced their nipples as a show of wealth

Today, celebs like Lenny Kravitz, Paris Jackson, and Rihanna have (or have had) their nipples pierced. Just like with tattoos, nipple piercings have become more and more common as the millennium goes on. 

Belly Button Piercings


There's historical evidence that navel piercings were worn in Ancient Egypt and seen as a symbol of beauty. Just a stone's throw away in some Indian cultures, the belly ring has been worn on special occasions for generations. But sometime in the 1990s, the trend exploded and belly rings (along with crop tops and low-rise jeans) started to become more commonplace.

Today, anyone from your grandma to the barista working their very first job has or could have had their navel pierced! 

Genital Piercings


For those with a more daring approach to body modification, genital piercings are a bold option. Generally, they're not the first kind of piercing people rock up to the piercing studio to get, but far more people have them than you'd think. Depending on your personal equipment, you could get the clitoral hood, frenum, labia, or the Prince Albert.

Evidence proves that genital piercings have been around since antiquity. In fact, genital piercings have shown up in the Kama Sutra, which was written in India between 400 BCE and 300 CE.   

Your Body is Yours to Modify


Piercings are a beautiful way to express yourself, and whether you choose to adorn your ears or your genitals, it's all about choosing the ones that vibe with you. There doesn't have to be a profound meaning to why you want a piercing, but it's really heartening to see how not modern getting piercings are. The practice has a rich historical significance, and with a little cash, you can add your tally to the list, too. 

8 Bold Body Piercings With Meanings That Slay Every Day