I found the two texts below somewhere on the internet. Does the use of the expressions "carved in my skin" and "carved in my arm" found in them have the same meaning of "tattoed in my skin" and "tattoed in my skin". I mean, could I swap the use of "carved" for "tattooed" and still get the same meaning? Or is the expression "carved" used here in a simply figurative sense?

"I would love to see you feel what I feel Do you know the hurt When you bleed from within Left behind with your name carved in my skin Don't you know the pain knocked down in the dirt"

"Watching and waiting by your windows I know what you do each day Do I rush in or take it slow? Baby I'll make your girlfriend pay Got your name carved in my arm Hurt myself to show you my love I love you, what else should I say?"

I also found elsewhere the expression "engraved in my arm" (His tongue caressed the letters that were engraved in my arm), so the same question applies here.

  • 1
    If you carved someone's name in your skin, you used a sharp point like a knife to write their name as a series of slashes. It could be a knife, a razor blade, or a bit of broken glass. Self-harmers do things like this, and the words 'Got your name carved in my arm Hurt myself to show you my love' make this clear. People who do this need help. Tattooing is completely different. Mar 4, 2022 at 15:48

2 Answers 2


The use of "carved" is likely to be figurative. A tattoo is a 2d drawing. "Carved" suggests cutting into the body and shaping it. It is therefore much more visceral than "tattooed".

The more common idiom is "carved on my heart", which is always figurative.

It may be that the choice of expression is because there is both the physical tattoo and the emotional inability to move on from the relationship that "carved on..." implies, so a double meaning.

"Engraved" a figurative and dramatic way of talking about something that is probably actually a tattoo.

  • Thanks for the amazing explanation.
    – Itamar
    Mar 4, 2022 at 8:06
  • What makes you think the usage of carved is figurative? I read it literally, as expressed in M. Harvey's comment on the OP.
    – EllieK
    Mar 4, 2022 at 16:31

In AmE, I would never say something was tattooed in. Tattoos are tattooed on.

I have a panda tattooed on my ankle.

There are other types of permanent skin modifications/adornments in addition to tattooing.

  • Branding - A hot iron is used to burn a scar into the skin. Brands are typically described as being on something, although into would also make sense for a brand.

I have the outline of a steer branded on my leg.

I have the outline of a steer burned into my leg. (same thing described differently)

  • Cutting/Carving - A sharp object is used to slice, peel, or dig a shape or word into the skin. Similar to branding, a permanent scar is left behind. The act of cutting would most often be described happing either in, on or onto the skin. Both work well.

I carved the shape of a sword in/into/onto my skin.

The scar left behind by the carving is left either on or in the skin.

As M. Harvey mentions in his comment on the original post, cutting or carving the skin often indicates a degree of emotional disturbance within the individual doing the cutting. There are, however, situations where cutting and carving occur as ritual. Several fraternities in the U.S. use cutting and branding as markers of inclusion.

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