Mermaid Tattoo Meanings and Design Ideas

Updated on March 11, 2020
thelyricwriter profile image

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


When it comes to vintage maritime symbols, the mermaid ranks with the best. This old-school tattoo design first became popular with sailors in the early 1900s. In keeping with its roots, the mermaid tattoo design often includes other nautical symbols like ships, anchors, nautical stars, and starfish.

If you're looking for inspiration and ideas for your next tattoo, read on!


Mermaid Tattoos in History

The mermaid is an ancient figure in many cultures' mythologies. In legends and folklore, the mermaid is often associated with sailors and the open waters. In most of the old stories, mermaids (or sirens) lure sailors with their beautiful singing and appearance and seductive ways. It is believed that they would lure sailors to their watery deaths so they could steal their treasures.

  • Two ancient civilizations that mention mermaids specifically are the Greeks and Romans.
  • Records show that mermaids were a big influence on coastal empires such as Greece and Rome.
  • The Greeks believed that they were created by the union of gods and sea creatures.
  • According to the Greeks, mermaids would commonly wait on rocks, trying to lure sailors to their death.
  • The Romans and the goddess Venus are both associated with mermaids.
  • It is believed that mermaids can only be seen in the light of the moon, so they appear at dusk but disappear at dawn.

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Mermaid Tattoo Design Options

  • Mermaids are usually pretty, with long, flowing hair and jewel-tone colors.
  • Most mermaid tattoos portray slim, long-haired, and young, but you can go against this tradition and choose any size, shape, age, or color mermaid you want.
  • The mermaid is often portrayed as a seductive figure with an enticing look on her face or a suggestive posture.
  • They are often portrayed with other maritime symbols such as nautical stars, anchors, ships, or tropical flowers.
  • They may be portrayed swimming through water or sitting on rocks.
  • She might be topless or she may have shells or long, flowing hair covering her breasts.
  • They can be depicted realistically or portrayed as cartoon characters, like Ariel from The Little Mermaid.
  • You may see mermaids holding fish bone combs, which is an ancient symbol of power and feminine strength, or sea shell jewelry.
  • They can also be portrayed with mirrors, which is an association to the moon.
  • Mermaid tattoos may portray a mermaid watching the moon or sitting on a rock in the moonlight or in the dark, whether it be the darkness of dawn or the darkness of the deep waters.
  • Sometimes, you'll see an evil mermaid. These usually have fire red hair or scales. They may be portrayed with their hair blowing up or around their body like flames and an evil expression on her face.
  • Some tattoos may show the mermaid with natural powers, such as moving waves with her breath.
  • Sometimes, you'll see a mermaid portrayed as a pinup. Pinup girl tattoos became popular around the same time mermaid tattoos did and both were often worn by sailors.

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Mermaid Tattoo Meanings and Interpretations

The mermaid is often seen as a strong female figure, one that is free, independent, and self-directed.

Due to the mermaid's connection with the sea, this tattoo design can symbolize nature, intuition, birth or rebirth, and creation.

Since she is often depicted luring sailors, she might represent danger, seduction, and sexuality.

She might also represent independence, freedom, mystery, a connection to the ocean, being tossed on the waves, or going with the flow.

Some believe that the mermaid represents magic.

Mermaid tattoos with mirrors may represent self value or self worth.

Overall, the mermaid tattoo represents everything about the female. Below, you can find more associated meanings.

  • Seduction
  • Sexuality
  • Persuasion
  • Emotion
  • Wildness
  • Intuition
  • Freedom
  • Independence
  • Self-Love
  • Mystery
  • Creation

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Before You Tattoo

  • Make sure that you take the time to research your tattoo. Take the time to fully understand what your design means and represents.
  • Don't rush to get tattooed! Those that do end up with regrets.
  • If you are not sure about a specific design, don't get it inked anyway. Take the time to think about it.


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    • profile image

      Storm Paterson 

      3 months ago

      Thanks for the description of the Mermaid, I am presuming that the Merman has a similar history, and myth... I have been wanting to have a Mermaid tattoo design for years but haven't found the right one, I have a design in my head but am not much of a scetcher in designing my own. I will look through your designs. Maybe I will find more than inspiration. Your history of Mermaids has added to my image

    • thelyricwriter profile imageAUTHOR

      Richard Ricky Hale 

      8 years ago from West Virginia







      Endless Sea






      I kindly thank you all for your time and comments. They are greatly appreciated. I apologize for the late reply. I stay so busy anymore and I honestly try my best to keep up. Thanks to all of you! You all are right, the mermaid has a rich tradition in mythology and maritime myths and stories alike. I love history and I am glad that you all enjoyed that part of this article. Best wishes to all of you and see you soon.

    • Movie Master profile image

      Movie Master 

      8 years ago from United Kingdom

      Now these tattoo's are really 'wow'!!

    • BeyondMax profile image


      8 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Wow, so colorful, but some of them are kinda silly =) But cute.

    • unknown spy profile image

      Life Under Construction 

      8 years ago from Neverland

      Wow and Wow! This is lovely :)

      i always love mermaid designs, tatoos, photos..this is great!

    • Fennelseed profile image

      Annie Fenn 

      8 years ago from Australia

      I can see how these seductive designs would appeal to the guys, but oh, how beautiful are the (female) mermaid tattooed legs, just beautiful body art. Mermaids have always been fascinating to me too. Lovely, informative hub. My votes and best wishes to you, Thelyricwriter.

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 

      8 years ago from Daytona Beach, Florida

      Voted up and awesome. These are really terrif Ricky. I've always loved the little mermaid.

    • endless sea profile image

      Akhand Pratap SIngh 

      8 years ago from Lucknow(U.P.) India

      As a lover of mythologies and sea's I have always loved mermaids and their stories and now I got to read about tattoos. It was nice read

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 

      8 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi my friend,these mermaid tattoos are so colorful and very interesting !

      Vote up and more !!!

    • Steven Gray profile image

      Steven Gray 

      8 years ago from Pensacola, Florida

      Very interesting. Thanks for compiling the history with some good photographs.

    • Alastar Packer profile image

      Alastar Packer 

      8 years ago from North Carolina

      Mermaid tats sure do go way back and have a colorful history with mariners. Its cool to read about the mermaid traits and what one can symbolize for an inked female. Great pic selection too Ricky, what amazing style will you have for us next!

    • anusujith profile image

      Anoop Aravind A 

      8 years ago from Nilambur, Kerala, India

      Wow what a collection of mermaid tattoos... Thanks for the share...

    • daskittlez69 profile image


      8 years ago from midwest

      That is a great tattoo.


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