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Tribal Tattoo Pictures and Meanings

Updated on February 4, 2016
Tattoo by Tacho, Thou Art Custom Tattoo and Piercing Studio, Sheffield, England.
Tattoo by Tacho, Thou Art Custom Tattoo and Piercing Studio, Sheffield, England.

For the most part tribal tattoos are derived from ancient tribal art. In many cultures, getting tattooed was (and still is) a rite of passage.

Modern tribal tattoos are based on ancient designs. Some of the cultures of origin are Borneo, Aztec cultures, India, Hawaii, Maori people of New Zealand, Samoa, and Polynesia. These cultures use their art to depict rites of passage, social status, and family identification. Some tattoos are even used for medicinal purposes. Each culture has their own techniques and special designs, but most tribal tattoos are solid black. Some artists do incorporate various shades and colors to break up the design.

Tattoo by Cliff (Z) Ziegler, Zebra Tattooz, Streetsboro, Ohio.
Tattoo by Cliff (Z) Ziegler, Zebra Tattooz, Streetsboro, Ohio.
Tattoo by Nelson Garcia, Nelsontattoo, Santamarta Colombia.
Tattoo by Nelson Garcia, Nelsontattoo, Santamarta Colombia.
Tattoo by Jasn, Pacific Rootz, Maui, HI.
Tattoo by Jasn, Pacific Rootz, Maui, HI.
Tattoo by Tattoo Danny, Tattoo en Piercingclub Belgium, Antwerp, Belgium.
Tattoo by Tattoo Danny, Tattoo en Piercingclub Belgium, Antwerp, Belgium.

Types of Tribal Tattoos

  • Borneon This is the most popular form of tribal tattooing, though most Borneon tattoos are copied from those of the Kayan Kenyah and Bakatan tribes. These tattoos hold up well over time. They have bold black lines and simple coloring. They are less prone to fading and blurring when compared to other styles.
  • Hawaiian Hawaiian traditional tattoos from before Western colonial influence feature a lot of geometric elements and are primarily black. Most common images are flowers, palm trees, the sun, stars, and ocean waves.
  • Maori The aboriginal people of New Zealand once created some of the most unique tattoos in the world. Their style evolved from facial tattoos and are still today a sacred form of family and personal identification. They tell the story of a person's family, achievements, and skills.

Tattoo by Daniel DiMattia, Calypso Tattoo, Lige, Belgium. Made at the Milan Tattoo Convention, 2007.
Tattoo by Daniel DiMattia, Calypso Tattoo, Lige, Belgium. Made at the Milan Tattoo Convention, 2007.
Tattoo by Tacho, Thou Art Custom Tattoo and Piercing Studio, Sheffield, England.
Tattoo by Tacho, Thou Art Custom Tattoo and Piercing Studio, Sheffield, England.
Tattoo by unknown artist.
Tattoo by unknown artist.
Tattoo by Roopiec, My Room, Poland.
Tattoo by Roopiec, My Room, Poland.
Tattoo by Tacho, Thou Art Custom Tattoo and Piercing Studio, Sheffield, England.
Tattoo by Tacho, Thou Art Custom Tattoo and Piercing Studio, Sheffield, England.

Choosing a Tribal Tattoo

Tribal tattoos are a popular choice for first tattoos. They're simple to design and most tattoo artists have made at least one in his or her carreer. Because they are usually inked only in black, they tend to hold up well with age and wear. At the same time, for the same reason they are difficult to remove and cover, especially if they include thicker lines and larger designs.

Tattoo by Nelson Garcia, Nelsontattoo, Santamarta Colombia.
Tattoo by Nelson Garcia, Nelsontattoo, Santamarta Colombia.
Tattoo by Jasn, Pacific Rootz, Maui, HI.
Tattoo by Jasn, Pacific Rootz, Maui, HI.
Tattoo by Paul Cutler, Fallen Tree,  Andalucia, Spain.
Tattoo by Paul Cutler, Fallen Tree, Andalucia, Spain.
Artist unknown.
Artist unknown.
Tattoo by Stephanie Campbell, Dragon FX, Kingsway, Edmonton, Alberta.
Tattoo by Stephanie Campbell, Dragon FX, Kingsway, Edmonton, Alberta.

Getting a Tribal Tattoo

Comments

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      Dawn 4 years ago

      wow guys c'mon. this is supposed to be thoughts about tats not each other. anyhow any tats done right are great!! I have a ton some tribal and some not. all my tats tell a story about me and my life, and if that means that I get a tribal that has a meaning other than what it stands for for me, that's ok. its my canvas and I love it. and I hope you all feel that way about yours. diferent cultures and styles is what makes us so different and makes the world so great!!!

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      jpuck 5 years ago

      Tribals do mean something. I agree that they are over used on mostly white trash guys. But for strong Hawaiians like me, they mean a lot. I have a tribal across my side for my grandfather who passed away. They mean something if they're legit. Not just on you because you thought the tribal arm band wouldn't make you look like a deuch bag.

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      TattooFanAlex 6 years ago

      It´s kinda funny to read these comments, one is saying his opinion like it is the truth of all (propably lives still with his/hers mom...), one is threatening people over the internet (i bet hes little dude with "napoleon complex"). now to my opinion, tribals are too often seen, they look great if done goodly but still, wont get one... i got tattoos and i only get them with true meaning to me. BUT i totally accept all these other opinions and i hope other would do the same! but yah, i hope no offence is taken from this and also i hope people would stop submiting soooooo offensive comments ¤___¤

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      Eva 6 years ago

      piece of crap.

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      Evan-B 6 years ago

      Hi. I really like tribal tattoos and want to get one because I think they are cool! Does anyone know if certain symbols mean certain things because I don't want to just get a random tattoo and have no idea if theres meaning behind it!

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      Dante Reeder 6 years ago

      My name is Dante and you can Find me in Temecula, Of course Most of you from the Midwest and East coast don't know nothing about this style of Tattoo. It probably looks Awful on that Sun deprived Pale Skin of yours LOL..Say something, I bet you Won't do a DANG thing..I'd Have you Shook And Your Manhood would Shrivel Up in fear, Negative little punk./

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      Dante Reeder 6 years ago

      Well they might be Retarded to you but a Majority of people like them Honestly though Keep you little Young Opinions to yourself and Slice Down Vertically it will get the Job done...On a Lighter note these Tattoos are Great looking if the right person does it, But of your a FatBody like most of these Complainers on the Board don't get them, If you workout with Weights and Go running live an Active lifestyle Yeah go for it and Tribal Tattoos do have Meaning Mine Mean If you disrespect me I am Gunning for every section of your mouth!

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      kaysei 6 years ago

      F**K watta' insult! the aborigonal people of New Zealand...i mean what the heck! how solid can your facts be if you can't even get the correct nationality for the country your writing about. ABORIGANIE are the rightful people of AUSTRALIA and MAORI are the rightful people of NEW ZEALAND. shame ow fulla ow bay ow!...

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      Genna 6 years ago

      Maybe you should worry more about offending someone by saying retarded than getting onto this person about their spelling. I'm sure that you've spelt something worng in life and it's not like you do not understand what they are trying to say.

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      Tribal-fan 6 years ago

      I know what you mean, dude u gotta work on ur spellin n shyt 4real....but tribal tattoos are great designs depending on whose doing it

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      J stalin 6 years ago

      you are a terrible writer and obviously have no references or really anything substantially valid in this article. Tribal tattoos are retarded as well as you. "Im ean where can you go wrong with a tribal tattoo?" like you said, they are meaningless designs that look like any high 8-year old would be able to draw. i know this is harsh but damn that shit is RETARDED

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