Tribal tattoo ideas

60 Cool and Unique Tribal Tattoos – Meanings, Ideas and Designs

It is extremely rare these days not to see a person wearing a tattoo or a few of them, and sometimes the design is calligraphic text, images and shapes, or even elaborately tribal, which is what we will talk about in this article, but first things first; just what is a tattoo? The word tattoo itself comes from the Polynesian word ‘tatau’, meaning ‘womanlike’, or ‘correct’, and also from Tahitian ‘tatu’ or ‘tatau’, which means ‘to strike’ or ‘to mark’. A tattoo is a form of body decoration whereby marks are made on the body by puncturing the outer layer of the skin and depositing color into it. With written reference from Joseph Bank’s Journal dating back to 1743, it is safe to say that tattoos are by no means a modern occurrence but have been around for quite a while. Let us now delve into tribal tattoos, their popularity, and their meaning.

Tribal tattoo ideas

Representation of Tribal Tattoos

This design is originally from old tribes such as the tribes of Borneo, the Celtic, the Haida, and the Maori. These old tribes have come to bear a modern form of tribal art called New Tribalism.

  • Old Celts mainly lived in France, Ireland, and England, and their designs are typically of dogs, humans, birds, interlace, and spiral. This civilisation gradually disappeared around the year 1000.
  • Maori tribes from New Zealand had facial and leg tattoos, similar to their wood carvings and based on spiral shapes. The facial tattoos were individually drawn so each was unique, and legend had it that once dead, light passes through one’s body but not the tattoos, so family and friends could recognize their deceased. Generally a tattoo meant mastering ones’ inner strength
  • Haida (Indian) tribes from the Northwest coast of America had tattoos mainly about Indian Astrology and was typically of fish, bears, thunderbirds, fish, and beavers. They believed that you took over part of the strength of the animal whose tattoo you wore.
  • The Dayak and Iban from Borneo, located above Indonesia, typically had dragons, scorpions (tribal scorpion tattoo designs are absolutely stunning), dogs, flowers, and spirals, and they wore them as proof of their achievements and for protection.

Over time, travelers, traders,soldiers, sailors, and even slaves spread the cultures of their tattoos to different places where they were adapted to their new home, and this played a major role in the revival and modernization of tattoos as we know them.

Popularity of Tribal Tattoos

Seeing as ancient tribes had different tattoos for different occasions, it is curious that the practice has been revived today, with most of those tribes long gone. Below are some reasons as to why a modern person with no ties to a particular tribe may wear these tattoos:

  • Their symbolism defines the wearer’s passions and identity.
  • Everyone has the basic tribal need to belong, and these tattoos give some a sense of that.
  • As an expression of uniqueness, and one’s personal freedom.
  • They grant one a kind of connection to ancient, mystic, and mysterious activity.
  • More information and imagery of the tattoos is available, therefore their awareness has spread.
  • For the simple love of art.

So now that you have a lot of information on the issue , and are sure to make a good decision if you decide to get a tattoo, just be sure to check in at a certified tattooists’ parlor, who is reputable, hygienic, knowledgeable, and last but not least, courteous, so you get a piece you will never regret having in the future!

1. Shoulder and Chest Tribal Tattoo For Men


This tribal tattoo is a fascinating expression of artistics design. Notice how every curve is detailed and done with great precision. Also, notice the circular pattern on the chest which is a symbol of the sun and signifies riches, brilliance and leadership. Needless to say, this tribal tattoo design enhances a man’ss masculinity and communicates some element of confidence, bravery and power. This could also work as a sun and moon tattoo.

2. Tribal Tattoo Full Sleeve for Men

Polynesian tribal tattoos

Fine lines of high detail best describe this Polynesian tribal tattoo. Notice the spearheads and shark teeth that were once a sign of social status and achievement. However, Polynesian tattoos are nowadays considered a statement of individual artistic expression. These tattoos are believed to be sacred though, so you should be careful when having one etched on your skin.

3. Bold Maori Half Sleeve Tattoo

Tribal Turtle Tattoo

A tattoo design that concentrates more on symbolism than overall design, this forearm tattoo can be used to express personality, identity or to enhance ones masculinity. It features symbols such as the turtle shell and the lotus flower- both of which are used to symbolize rebirth and longevity.

4. Awesome Full Sleeve and Chest Tribal Tattoo for Men

African Tribal Tattoos

Composed of black, solid geometric designs, this full sleeve tattoo combines the designs of traditional Polynesian tribes with modern inspiration. Check out the skillfully crafted arrow-like pattern that runs from the lotus flower to the wrist; this pattern is known as Pakati, a symbol of strength courage and bravery. Dragonfly tattoos look amazing in this style.

5. Shoulder Aztec Tribal Tattoo

African Tribal Tattoos, Aztec Tribal Tattoo

Inspired by ancient Mesoamerican cultures, this Aztec tribal tattoo is visually stunning, steeped in rich history and full of symbols. For instance, the Marquesan cross (the circle pattern on the shoulder) is often used to symbolize a balance between the elements and harmony.

6. Friend Tattoos Idea: Ornamental Chest Tribal Tattoo

Celtic Tribal Tattoos

This is a Maori tribal tattoo that is dominated by black and bold spirals known as ‘koru’. The spirals are a representation of growth and new beginnings according to the Maori culture. Each Polynesian island has its own way of tattooing making it a truly unique experience. These designs make for popular friendship tattoos.

7. Tribal Sun-Moon Tattoo

Celtic Tattoos

Thick lines and semi-organic shapes that are filled exclusively with black, best describe this tattoo. However, don’t be fooled by the seemingly simple tattoo design because it laden with meaning. The sun goes with the moon to represent a merging of opposites. However, it can also be used to represent harmony and balance within one’s life.

8. Tribal Tikki Back Tattoo For Men

Celtic Tribal Tattoos

Simple yet highly sophisticated, this tattoo features detailed geometric patterns that include symbols like the sun and the ‘enata’ which is a typical motif in Polynesian tattoos. While the ‘enata’ symbolizes the relationship between human, gods, and life experiences; the sun on the other hand symbolizes power. Enclosing the sun within the patterns of the enata in this tattoo could mean that one has given the gods power to protect his life experiences.

9. Bold Maori Tribal Back and Sleeves Tattoo For Men

Celtic Tattoos, Tribal Turtle Tattoo

Clearly, a lot of attention and detail went into creating this Maori back tattoo. The symmetrical patterns heavily influenced by Polynesian tattoos lend this tattoo a very bold and masculine appearance. Note the ‘spear-heads’ on the left shoulder and the turtle shell on the right shoulder; both are used to represent courage and longevity.

10. Geometric Tribal Tattoo for Women

Samoan Tribal Tattoos

Commonly found in Hawaiian and Samoan tattoos, this geometric tattoo borrows from a traditional design that consists of simple straight lines repeating on the body. Although this type of tattoo was traditionally tatted on women’s hands as a sign of tribal standing and reverence, countless women today receive it as an expression of authenticity.

11. Samoan Tribal Leg Tattoo For Men

Samoan Tribal Tattoos by Tattoo Artist

This tattoo covers the entire calf and includes the typical Polynesian symbols like arrow-heads which are a representation of courage and shark teeth which signify guidance and power. Obviously, the combination of modernity and tradition in this unique art form works to create an incredible tribal leg tattoo.

12. Sexy Upper Arm and Shoulder Tribal Tattoo

Celtic Tattoos

Inset is a Polynesian shoulder and half-sleeve tattoo that embodies the true spirit of valiance and courage. This tattoo features innumerable tribal symbols that enhance both its beauty and significance. In fact, this sophisticated tattoo can be read like book to tell the story of the wearer.

13. Stylish Full Sleeve Tribal Tattoo For Men

Irish Tribal Tattoos

This is an intricate Maori tattoo with a lot of fine line work. Full of spirals, arrow-heads and shark teeth, thi tattoo is full of symbolism that creates amazing body art. Plus, the Maori lotus beautifully tatted on the elbow also adds just the right touch touch of sensuality to the tattoo.

14. Marquesan Chest and Sleeve Tattoo


Bearing much semblance to a plate of armor, it is no wonder that the Marquesan tattoo is a popular choice for men. Needless to say, the Marquesan tattoos were traditionally worn for purposes of enhancing attractiveness. However, hidden within the intricate spirals and lines are symbols and meanings that go far beyond just aesthetics.

15. Cool Maori Shoulder and Half Sleeve Tattoo For Men


This Maori tattoo has a bold visual appearance with thick black curving lines and interlocking patterns that lend themselves well to the symmetry of the upper arm and the shoulder. And although the main focal point of Maori tattoos was generally the face, since tribal tattoo designs have grown in popularity, the shoulder has quickly replaced the face as the most commonly tattooed part of the body.

16. Bold Marquesan Armor Tattoo for Men


This is a Marquesan chest plate tattoo that features the sun on the chest as the centerpiece. Note that the sun is used to symbolize power in Polynesian culture. Also, note how the artist uses the shoulder cap to create symmetry. Other symbols are also incorporated in to this tattoo design like lotus flower tattoo on the shoulder and the shark teeth.

17. Modern Samoan Sleeve and Chest Tattoo


This is a Samoan tribal tattoo with a modern twist. It includes short lines, circles, spirals and large sections of black bands that work to form an amazing pattern. The geometric lines and shape work exceptionally well to accentuate the symmetry of the wearer’s body.

18. Awesome Maori Shoulder and Half Sleeve Tattoo on Man’s Arm


Curvilinear in nature, Maori tattoos are characterized by intricate spirals and curved shapes. This tattoo uses spiral motifs to create an alluring pattern undoubtedly filled with popular Polynesian symbols. And unlike other tribal tattoo designs that use thick black curving lines, this tattoo design uses thin intricate patterns instead to achieve the same effect.

19. Impressive Polynesian Tattoo on Upper body for Men


This bold Polynesian upper body tattoo undoubtedly creates a striking visual appeal. Other than the appeaking thick black curves just below the chest, the tribal band on the waist and the sun above the navel, all synchronize work to create a breathtaking piece of art.

20. Samoan Chest and Half-Sleeve Tattoo for Men


Bearing much semblance to a chest plate, this Polynesian chest tattoo is great for enhancing one’s masculinity. Whatss more, the attention to detail and incorporation of symbols like the shark teeth and enata- a motif designed to symbolize gods and humans- further enhance its appeal to men who are looking for great tattoo ideas.

21. A small Tribal Tattoo on a woman’s back

Indian Tribal Tattoos

This small tattoo on the middle of a woman’s back is made up of straight lines and sharp curves. This tattoo has an American Indian feel to it. It will also look good on other parts of the body, like on the arms of a huge man.

22. A multi Coloured and very beautiful Tribal Tattoo on a man’s arm


This love tattoo is multi coloured, multi patterned, and very sophisticated. It has an Asian feel to it, and looks like a tattoo that could have belonged to a high status individual. The red colours blend in perfectly with the pale green and black to create a lovely tribal tattoo.

23. A bold and imposing Maori Tribal Tattoo on a man’s hand

Mexican Tribal Tattoos

This bold tattoo is the warrior like tattoo of the Maori tribe of New Zealand. It is mostly in black, with a few patches done in red. The tattoo has bold symbols and patterns and was typically meant for a man, to showcase his courage, bravery and social status.

24. Maori style Tribal Tattoo on a hand


A mix of of the classical Maori style tattoo and colour tattoos depicting flowers. A good combination when it comes to tattoos ideas, this tattoo will look good on both men and women as a very lovely tribal tattoo design. It is very elegant and beautiful.

25. Modern Tribal Tattoo concept on a man’s body


This particular tattoo is one of the coolest tribal tattoo ideas. It is both trendy and artistic, simple and yet elegant, a very lovely tribal tattoo. The curves are reminiscent of a dragon, which makes this design one of the best tribal tattoo ideas. A cloud tattoo could elevate the design even further.

26. A typical Maori style Tribal Leg Tattoo


This one is a typical Maori tribal tattoo on the leg. Mostly for men in the west, this design endows masculinity, making the man seem more solid and tough. The bold figures and patterns give the illusion of a warrior, someone to respect.

27. A full back curvy Tribal Tattoo


This complex tattoo pattern covering the back is among the coolest tattoos ideas. The complex weave of patterns and curves create a mysterious aura for the wearer and will make the person seem extra-ordinary. Truly beautiful piece, a nice work of art.

28. A Tribal Tattoo depicting a carved face

Indian Tribal Tattoos

This type of a carved face tattoo has been known to exist for ages both among the Maori of New Zealand and American Indian tribes. It is befitting of a warrior or any man of high status. It is among the most valued type of tribal tattoo designs.

29. A curved pattern Tribal arm Tattoo


This is a trendy and modern tattoo type with curved pattern purely in black. It is more of an artistic expression than a symbolism. This kind of tattoo is more suited to the party-goer type of personality, expressing a life filled with fun and beauty.

30. A very Cool and traditional Tribal Tattoo on a man’s hand


This cool tribal tattoo has a design very common in Maori tribal tattoos. It is purely in black, made up of different patterns and incorporates a mask face. This design is among the best of a tribal tattoo designs idea. Definitely for the manly man, it makes you imposing.

31. Tribal Tattoo on a shoulder


A unique tribal tattoo design, incorporating many elements of traditional tribal tattoo designs. In the center is the sun, which has been the object of worship for many cultures throughout history. Everything else revolves around the sun, as is depicted also in this beautiful tattoo.

32. A full back Tribal Tattoo


This tattoo is a very beautiful and magnificent work of art. Incorporating patterns of the Maori as well as American Indian patterns, this tattoo also has a pattern dividing the middle which creates the illusion of a left and right design. A wonderful concept when designing tribal tattoo designs.

33. Full back and arms Tribal Tattoo


This almost full body tattoo is made up of two types of tattoos. On the back is a tribal style tattoo completely in black, but the arms have tattoos which contain colours. The incorporation of colours in the full black tribal tattoo on the back would be awesome.

34. Full back Tribal Tattoo


Although it might look simple at first, this tribal tattoo does have its design complexities. A modern adaptation of traditional tribal tattoo designs, this is among the popular themes for young men and it remains a very aesthetic tribal tattoo idea for trendy people.

35. Tribal Tattoo on a man’s Chest


This tribal tattoo design contains both elements of traditional tribal tattoo designs and those of more modern adaptations. The curvy lines all seem to originate from the heart area but then continue to the center of each chest. The sides of the curvy lines too have been artistically modified.

36. Arm style Tribal Tattoo


A very classic tribal tattoo design, this particular tattoo is so beautiful both in the use of colour and the detailed work. The fine lines, the tiny dots, they all add to the superiority of this tattoo. A wonderful art-piece, this is one the most beautiful tribal tattoos.

37. Two arms covering Tribal Tattoo


This tribal tattoo is completely in black. It has detailed work incorporated, but the patterns are not standard tribal tattoo patterns. Also, the boundaries of the tattoo with the body are very precisely defined. Anyway, at the end, it’s these differences that make this a unique tattoo.

38. Two coloured Tribal Tattoo on a Hand


A black and red coloured tattoo which incorporates both traditional tribal elements and more modern three dimensional design. The curvy lines and flames seem to intertwine on multiple levels, one on top of the other, producing a nice optical illusion. A further addition of green would be amazing.

39. A modern Tribal Tattoo on the back of a man


Fully in black, this tattoo belongs to the more popular tribal style among young people. With bold lines and curvy elements of a trendy and artistic design, this tattoo will be fit for any young man who wants to be identified with current trends.

40. A Tribal inspired Lion Tattoo on a shoulder

Tribal Tiger Tattoo

Imposing and aggressive looking, this tribal lion tattoo mixes elements of the thick flames of modern tribal tattoos with a very aggressive looking lion. The end effect is that of a man who definitely is a manly man type of person, an alpha male. This is a perfect tribal lion tattoo idea.

41. Shoulder Guard

Tribal Tiger Tattoo

This is one for the upper arm. The tattoo stretches from just above the elbow, all through the upper forearm to the shoulder area. It can be likened to the shoulder guards that the ancient gladiators used to do as part of their combat attire. The tribal design is exquisite and versatile because the tattoo is not too detailed.

42. Tattoo Hug


This particular model can be likened to a hug. The tattoo spreads just around the shoulder blades and the edges of the tattoos nearly converge right in the middle of the spine. The tattoo is slim and just long enough to be compared to an arm. The curve at the apex is perfect in wrapping up a great design.

43. Half a shirt


The tattoo can be compared to half a shirt, and it takes the entire one-half of the torso, cutting right through the middle of the chest and the navel area and extends into the pubic area. The design spreads into the upper arm area where it looks like a short sleeve.

44. Long sleeve

Tribal Neck Tattoos

The design can be compared to the sleeve of a long-sleeved shirt. It stretches from the wrist all through the arm and shoulder to the neck region. The neck tattoos design has lots of details to it, which further enhances the beauty that the tattoo possesses. This tattoo is a great show of personality and may suit the very positive persons.

45. Collar


These tattoos are one of those brands that can be likened to around collar t-shirt. In fact, when you have this tattoo, people at the office may never know because it rises from the forearms through the shoulder and the tattoo passes right over the collar bone. The tattoo does not spread below the chest.

46. Optical illusion


This is a very bold look that covers the entire area of the back and forearms. One arm, though, looks like it was just inked entirely while the other one has some tribal details to it. The shoulder blades are covered by two large tribal circle while the lower back has some circles that seem to be connected to each other by triangles.

47. Shoulder Pad


The tattoo is dense. Though there are a lot of details about it, the color of the ink really stands out. This is one for the upper arm and shoulder area. There’s a shape of a man, with arms raised and they are encased in some sort of emblem. The tattoo seems to have an identity to it.

48. Shorts


These are one of those leg tattoos that reach around the calf area. There are some excellent details about the tattoo on the mid-thigh section though is some break, and one can see more skin. The mid-calf area has been densely inked, and that completes the tattoos look because it looks like the shorts Hem.

49. Top half


Something for the top half of the arm. The symbol looks like two picture that is separated by a dagger diagonally. The bottom half looks like some of the shapes from the top half with the difference being that at the top they are in a particular formation but at the bottom they are disorganized.

50. Simple and clear


Clarity is ultimately the name of the game here. The tattoo doesn’t require too much inking but has a great design to it. The top area takes the shape of a circle as the tattoo goes over and over the shoulder. The tattoos width reduces as it descends. There’s a sharp apex right where we have the indentation of the biceps.

51. One for the leg


These particular design has a versatility to it and looks like it may fit in other parts of the body too. Though is inked on the calf area; the tattoo is very clear. At the middle, there seems to be some statue with their palms close together almost like it’s praying the very top looks like closed eyes and the bottom is the shape of a mask.

52. Bracelet


Simplicity and authenticity are at its best here the tattoo looks like a bracelet. It’s just the size of the watch, and the ink makes it more vivid. The tattoo seems to have the same shape towards the left, but the area on the right side of the picture looks to be a bit different.

53. Back left


One from the top drawer. The tattoo doesn’t have a lot of details to it, but stills manage to bring out that attractive look. The tattoo stretches across the back and looks to end near the hip born. The look looks to be from waves of different sizes.

54. Simple and clear


Reminds me of those great architectural designs. This is one for the upper forearm and shoulder. The sides look to be consisting of two staircases that arch towards different directions. The top middle part looks like a badge. Great design all the way.

55. Horns


The tattoo is massive; spreading All through the back with the exception of the upper cervical area. The mid back section looks to be a part of horns and some overlapping collars. The shoulder areas look more or less like the wheat plant and a sisal rope.

56. Mirror Image


The tattoo has some congruency to it and even has a clear cut mid-section each section looks to be the mirror image of the other. One for the arm and shoulder. The designs are exquisite, and the clarity is perfect. Great tattoo all round.

57. Drift


The details are quite in many, and the tattoo doesn’t use a lot of ink. This tattoo looks to be for the people who want to avoid a lot of ink. The top part is a circle that seems to be anchored to a flat platform.

58. Walk the walk


This is a simple circular tattoo that is on the foot. The foot tattoo design is quite detailed with the middle of the tattoo looking more or less like a cross that has some optical illusion to it, making it a great faith tattoos idea.

59. Jagged


The tattoo can be compared to a jagged piece of iron. The design has been carefully crafted and looks also to have some congruency to it. The dark line on either side further enhances the tattoos appearance. Great tattoo for the hands and feet.

60. Autonym


These are a design of contrasting tattoos. The tattoo on the left seems to be laughing either sarcastically, the one on the right is laid down and looks sad. Though their designs at the bottom are somewhat different, it’s not easy to guess. For more ideas check out our mosaic tattoos!

About the Author

Based in Miami, FL and I’m a tattoo artist. I work hard and learn new techniques every day to improve my tattooing skills.On my website, you will find an amazing tattoo collection which I use myself too for inspiration and help my clients to find the perfect piece of masterwork.