Tribal Tattoo

Tattoos so popular even nowadays and very much associated with current trends have actually played important part in shaping and expressing the culture of various locations throughout the world in history. The very popular tribal tattoos have long history and bring the heritage of early tribes to the current day. They are associated with the culture of various tribes in South Africa, North America, Japan, Taiwan, New Zealand etc. Many tribes would use certain symbols tattooed on their bodies to give them strength, to protect them from evil forces or natural disasters. These marks and the oldest tattoos are clear reflections of the superstitions and believes of various tribes in the history.

 Maori Style Tattoo

Today tribal tattoos are one of the most popular tattoo patterns worldwide among younger or older generation. The rich variety of tribal tattoo design is maybe one important reason for this popularity. Tribal tattoo patterns can really be diverse and very unique. In general tribal tattoos use thick lines and use black ink. Thick outlines make images, which can be simplistic or very sophisticated. Today artists also play with shades and colors when making tribal tattoos and nothing in fact is considered wrong.

Although today there is no single and definite tribal tattoo meanings. Ancient people used them in order to express diversity of their qualities and in addition the tattoos show the difference between different of tribes.

 Big Tribal Ornament Tattoo


Tribal Tattoo Meanings

In early days, tribal tattoo would symbolize the identity of particular tribe. It would also show the religious or spiritual believes of the tribes. Currently, the most widespread tribal tattoos are picked from the tattoo patterns of Polynesian, Indian, Egyptian, Aztec, Mayan, Maori and Samoan tribes. They usually used different marks on their bodies to show their social status and achievement in life. In order to think about tribal tattoo meanings for today, let’s go back and check what these tattoos would signify earlier.

It is considered that the ritual of tattoo creation was first started by Polynesians, and all the other tribal tattoos derive from them. Even the term “tattoo” actually comes from “tatau” in Polynesian. Most of the people in Polynesia were tattooed. Tattoos were considered to be a form of communication, a different language. Tattoos signified moving into adulthood, protection etc. Usual figures used for tattoos were animals, birds and fishes. It is thought that the teeth of shark, for example, would represent protection, shells would mean wealth and so on.


Aztec tattoos were used in Mexico, they are associated with Aztec god. The most widespread Aztec tattoos are: sun, calendar, eagle and serpent. These symbols were awarded to the members of tribe for specific accomplishments. The symbol of sun is said to signify belief in afterlife, Eagle represents strength and courage.

Maori tribe, which resided in New Zealand used facial tattoos. The Maori tattoos usually signifies inner strength and purity. Maori Tribe believed that after death the tattoo would show your personality to others, when the sun would shine through your face.

Haida, which is an Indian tribe and resided in northwest coast of America, used symbols of fish, bears or thunderbirds. They believed that tattooing an animal would enable you to take the strength of those living creatures. These tattoos are usually associated with strength and masculinity.

 Tribal Tattoo meanings

As we can see, as the tattoos were extensively used by different tribes. So tribal tattoo meanings are difficult to describe. It is very difficult to know exact meaning behind every figure. One and the same figure can have various meaning. So in order to find real in-depth meaning for your tattoo you might need to do extensive research. Find the books about oldest tribes, their culture, their believes and symbols. Also you might need to consult with an experienced tattoo artist.

Tribal tattoos for men and women

Tribal tattoos can differ according to gender today. These tattoos are in fact more popular among men, but they are also used by women. Tribal Tattoos for men are usually larger tattoos performed in black ink, covering arms, shoulders or large part of the back. They symbolize strength and protection. Therefore, tribal tattoos for men are usually great for those males who have well-built body and good muscle tone.


Tribal tattoos for women were not so popular for long time, now, women are also frequently getting tribal patterns on their bodies. They mostly tattoo their belly. Body shape is important for tribal tattoos for women as well. You meet tribal tattoos on women mostly with flat stomach and good muscle tone.

 Butterfly Design tribal tattoo

Popular Tribal tattoos

The most popular shapes among tribal tattoos are tribal cross Tattoos and tribal dragon tattoo.

The meaning of tribal cross tattoo varies from person to person. For some it has religious meaning, others use it to associate with the faith of various tribes. For example Celtic cross symbolizes the power of the sun. Tribal Cross tattoos have very bold design and really stands out. They are usually tattooed on large parts of the body, mostly on shoulder. Adding floral pattern and shades to the tribal cross tattoo, makes it softer and is usually preferred by the women.

The meaning of tribal dragon tattoo usually symbolizes attributes of the dragon. Dragon is one of the most legendary creature and is prevalent in oldest myths, legends and folklore. Dragon symbolizes strength and power. In Eastern cultures like Chinese, Japanese of Vietnamese cultures, dragon is one of the most important symbols respected for special powers and honor. This is very opposite in western culture, which considers dragon as evil. However, the symbol plays important role and stands as a symbol of strength in most of the folklore. Therefore this symbol is actual in today’s art and symbolizes diversity of things for different people.

Please find the most unique tribal cross tattoos and tribal dragon tattoo below: