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Coffin Tattoo Meanings, Ideas, and Designs

Richard Hale is a tattoo enthusiast who studies and researches tattoo symbolism, meanings, and history.

Coffin tattoos come in many shapes and sizes and can represent different things to different people.

Coffin tattoos come in many shapes and sizes and can represent different things to different people.

One popular, Gothic-themed tattoo symbol is the coffin. Mysterious, ominous, and rather dark, this tattoo choice makes a dramatic statement.

After all, we all know what a coffin is for. If you don't, you will eventually find out. This symbol is a reminder that we all face death. Because of this, the coffin tattoo can also be a reminder to live life to the fullest. We only have one life and one chance to make the most of our time here. Every time you view your coffin tattoo, you will be reminded of this stone-cold fact.

For many of us, death is a scary thought. As we age, it gets bigger, closer, and more real. When we are young, it rarely crosses our minds, but as we enter the last stage of our lives, it may become a thought that lingers nearly all the time. While many fear this final moment, some embrace it. These people are satisfied and anticipate the afterlife.

The History of the Coffin Symbol

Since 1380, the word coffin has been used to refer to any box in which the dead are buried. A coffin is a tapered hexagonal or octagonal in shape, while a casket is a rectangular box. They usually have lids that open, either by lifting or on a hinge. These vessels for the dead are probably somewhat more meaningful to those from cultures who bury their dead (as opposed to cremating). The coffin has also been a longtime symbol of vampires, who are said to sleep inside them to hide from the sun.

A man carries a coffin on his back.

A man carries a coffin on his back.

Design Options for Your Coffin Tattoo

Anything that is associated with death can be linked within coffin tattoos, including:

  • Roses
  • Spiderwebs
  • Wings
  • The names or birth and death dates of loved ones
  • Dia de Los Muertos iconography
  • Birds, especially ravens and vultures
  • Anything Gothic
  • Crosses, rosaries, and other Christian objects
  • Skulls or bones
  • The grim reaper
  • Vampires
  • Candles
  • Vines
  • An hourglass or a clock
  • Gargoyles
  • Snakes

Although many coffin tattoo designs are done in dark colors, some are very bright For example, the coffin-and-candle tattoo above is very colorful and has a lit candle placed inside the coffin. Coffin tattoos are perfect for someone looking for a Gothic design. Vampires, spiders, spider webs, or bats can all be incorporated.

Coffin tattoos can also serve as memorials. In such cases, someone may have a beautiful coffin designed with roses and vines. They can also have inspirational words included on banners. Some examples of this would be "mortality," "perseverance," "live forever," or "never die."

What Does a Coffin Tattoo Mean or Represent?

Some interpretations of the coffin tattoo are positive, while others are more negative or dark.

  • Death
  • Gothic sensibilities
  • Mortality
  • Afterlife
  • Vengeance
  • Loss
  • Inspiration
  • Hope
  • Remembrance

The coffin with a candle inside might represent the ability to see the light in dark situations. It may also symbolize a path of light in the afterlife. Overall, a coffin tattoo can be symbolic of the thought that one is prepared for death. It may represent that you are at peace with yourself and your life. Remember that in the end, your tattoo represents what you want it to.

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Know Before You Go

There are some important things that you should remember before you get a coffin tattoo (or any tattoo):

  • Be sure to take the time to do research, just as you are right now. Make sure that you completely understand what your tattoo represents and stands for.
  • Don't rush to get inked! Most who do have regrets about their decision down the road.
  • If you are not sure, wait. Make the right choice the first time around.

© 2012 Richard Ricky Hale


Richard Ricky Hale (author) from West Virginia on July 30, 2012:

Thanks for the comments and your time:) Gypsy, LOL. You never know? Snowdrops, I don't like them either. They scare me also. Max, thought the same. I had to add him. I am sure he has suffered enough:) Laptop, at the least, no boring conversation. Just imagine if one was religious. AE and Kash, thanks to you both:)

Gypsy Rose Lee from Daytona Beach, Florida on July 29, 2012:

lol What will they think of next? Does Gomez already have his coffin tattoo?

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on July 28, 2012:

Hello Ricky, Very colorful, but i wouldn't want one for me. Hee..

Thomas Silvia from Massachusetts on July 28, 2012:

Hi my friend thanks for another tattoo hub, i not a fan of these tattoos but the photos were nice .

Vote up and more !!!

Christiano Odhiambo from Nairobi on July 28, 2012:

The coffin with a cobra!

I think the tattoos are so fine for someone who cares little about how other's perceive him or her. They are also awesome when you want to pass across a specific message. I just wonder what will happen when someone with such a tattoo becomes friends with another who hates them. Will it be a source of nice jokes?

BeyondMax from Sydney, Australia on July 28, 2012:

o_O This is as freaky as can be...and the funniest part is that it's not funny. You just look a that one with 'hello kitty', that guy can't be serious or can he? LOL

snowdrops from The Second Star to the Right on July 27, 2012:

Waaahh!! i wont get a coffin scared of coffins :)

Anyway, thanks a gain for sharing. I really learn a lot and see tattoos i haven't seen before.


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