150+ Notable Tribal Tattoo Ideas – Origin, Meaning, Types And More!


Tribal tattoo is one of the most popular tattoos from a long time already. It is really hard to define what exactly is a tribal tattoo, because the coverage is beyond a culture, or a group of people, but rather it is a world wide thing. Sometimes calling a tattoo ‘tribal’ might be wrong, because the types and the styles of each one vary completely with the rest of the family. Though it is the outcome of a tribal culture, but it has inherited a lot from various cultures as well as countries, different races of people and also due to religion aspects.


The tribal tattoos are the ones with traditional patterns, which are often modified to prepare some different inspirational tattoos, but meaningless. The tribal tattoo has some repetitive designs, bold black line motifs, use of only black ink with heavy linings, greatest mythical symbolism. These days people from all kind of profession or personality seem to wear the tribal tattoos. The design might vary from calligraphic texts to various shapes or even images when it comes to elaborating a tribal tattoo.

Basically, to know more about a tribal tattoo, one has to have greater concept about a tattoo. What is a tattoo? The word is a Polynesian modification to word tatau which means womanly. It is also a modification of the word tatu from Tahitian language, meaning mark. A tattoo is decorative method that leaves permanent marks on your body that can have various colors and textures. It is a work of ink, needle & hands!



The history of tribal tattoo is vast. It has been into existence from a century ago, when the tattoo was firstly invented. The tribal tattoo which we find these days are actually modifications to what there had been from a long time.The combination of style along with traditional designs, the new ones are different from the initial tribal tattoos. But, no matter how many modifications are there, they still remain as the individual artistic expression.

Though with time, there came some negative feed backs to these tribal tattoos, making the reputation go down. But in late 80s Generation X bought them back! They were deeply into the indigenous cultures making the tattoos as part of the lives of people. Similarly, the introduction of tribal tattoo system in modern American culture eliminated the historical tie between wearing a tribal tattoo and the ones getting them on!


If we look back into the tradition that might go up to thousand years back, tribal tattoos still make their place. The new forms of tattoo ideas that we see today are rooted with the initial tribal tattoos. It started with a style long ago, adopted by certain tribes or typically people with same cultures, which later on became the essential part of human life.

Just like other tattoos, the tribal tattoos were inked with black ink as the part of indigenous culture. It was inked using hollow needle which was built with locally available stuffs like either bones, porcupine’s quill, bamboo peaks, and other naturally available sharp & hollow objects. The palates were later on built from local pigments which used red as well as yellow for inking.


Everything in life has a purpose, some we find out, some we do not care, but everything has to have a purpose! The basic tribal tattoos include a blended tradition of Maori, Samoan, & Polynesian styles. The use of tribal tattoo indicated the wearers as members of certain tribal groups. It acted as their identity and determined the social status as well. The tribal tattoos also indicated one being employed in either medicinal rituals or in religious ones.

The shapes used in the tribal tattoo art were basically of animals and some natural elements that were associated to the tribal life. The patterns modifications would tell a distinct story each time. Even the warriors added the tribal tattoos with animal prints and sometimes nature-inspiring ones that reflected the strength, courage, and power of the warrior in battles. Some sea based images were also common as tribal life originated from near the ocean and existed for a long time around the sea.


When we try to talk about the types of tribal tattoos, we may fail to add all the types or keep each one under the same type. There are certain tribes from which they were originated. One can divide them into the tribal groups itself. But it can still be tricky to do that, as there can be indefinite tribal tattoos. Lets break this challenge and classify the tribal tattoo in terms of their existence & modification, i.e. traditional & modern tribal tattoos:

Traditional Tribal Tattoo

Traditional tribal tattoo indicates the one that are under the category of original tribal tattoos. The real authentic tribal designs fall under this category. There are rarely the remains of the original traditional tribal tattoos because most of them have already got that modern element. But there still are some group of people or cultures that have been strictly following the traditional designs. The one among many includes the tribes in Africa that have been still using the original tribal designs that has been in existence from long generations. Similarly, another popular group of the Maori also have been saving the original tribal tattoos. They are from New Zealand.

When it comes to traditional art form in tribal tattoos, Ta Moko designs are well recognized. These are again from the Maoris. They have their own definition to the word tattoo which means the bodily adornments. The classic significance of the tribal tattoos through traditional backgrounds are also well defined by them. They not just used the tribal tattoos to display a person’s status but as a source of inner spiritual strength.

Modern Tribal Tattoo

Every other tribal tattoo that is not the original one, is a modern tribal tattoo. The modern one sincerely has the same old element of classic design and augment, but yet in a different modified ways, giving a new design and finish. It can also be the combination of different type of traditional tribal tattoo or the one which is a mixture of tribal tattoos from different societies or tribes. There can be varied symbols, or little modification of the shapes.

Even with the modern tribal tattoos, one can get different sub types underneath. They can be based upon prmary to prominent source. There are the types based upon the tribes themselves. Either can be Maori tribal tattoos to Celtic, or even Hawaiian.


  • Borneon Tribal Tattoo: The Borneon Tribal Tattoos are one of the most popular among the tribal tattoos. But they are mostly copied from various other tribes. Even Kayan Kenyah as well as Bakatan forms are used to make the Borneon forms. They have been used for a long time using only the thick black lines and sometimes variation in color.
  • Hawaiian Tribal Tattoo: The Hawaiian tribal tattoos are the traditional or the original ones that come as an influence of Western colonies. They include mainly black and bold lines along with some unique geometric shapes. The shapes include basic trees, sun, moon, stars, waves, flowers, etc.
  • Maori Tribal Tattoo: This tribal tattoo belongs to the original aboriginal people of a small society in New Zealand. These include the most unique tribal tattoos. The facial tattoos ideas come from Maori and still some sacred group of people are following it strictly.


Tribal tattoos fall under the most popular tattoos in the world which has made it people’s first choice when it comes to tattooing. The designs are simple along with amazing patterns and the result is so majestic that anyone will fall in love with your tribal tattoo in a first sight. Because being black ink dominating, with age there won’t be any fading of the tattoo. But removing it or covering it might be a tough task as compared to other tattoos.

The tribal tattoos are worn by everyone and has no specific genre who wear it. But it is more popular among youngsters. Those who are into Boxing, Kung Fu, Karate, etc. are more seen with tribal tattoos. Similarly, body builders are also often seen to be more attracted to tribal tattoos. It is equally famous among celebrities, also rappers.


The meaning of tribal tattoo depends upon which group of people is describing it, or which group of people it is associated to. It varies from every single design depending upon the culture it refers to. Moreover, every symbol or shape or image that comes under tribal tattoo has its own meaning. It also depends upon the designer of the tribal tattoo and the information he/she has.

If we talk specifically on the meaning of tribal tattoos, we cannot forget the Ta Moko tattoos which come from Maori. They have the greatest meanings. They include the tattoos that cover the face of people with unique and outstanding patterns. Not very common but really amazing tattoos are included in it which hold significant meaning.


There is a certain belief among the Maori. They believe dead people are invisible to naked eyes, and light can pass through their bodies. But wearing a tribal tattoo with bold black thick lines, the light would be not possible to go inside the tattoo making them visible to their loved ones including friends and families even after death.

The meaning varies from one tribe to another. The tribal tattoos were believed to have greater spiritual significance. They were worn for protection of their bodies against the demons or evils as described in their holy books. Moreover, the meaning of tribal tattoos will also depend upon the ornamentation values. Sometimes, they are simply worn because of having attractive and unique patterns.

The people from  various backgrounds, soldiers, slaves, criminals, traders, and explorers defined their tribal tattoos in a different manner making it have different meaning from place to place. Thus, the meanings are infinite, and are evolving, modified, and getting unique.


Preparation of getting a tribal tattoo includes every procedure that getting a normal tattoo shall include. If you really want to get a tribal tattoo, then you need to make a research first. Either through magazines or articles online, you can find a suitable one for you to begin with. If you already know a tattooist who has a lot of experience in inking tribal tattoos, you can directly consult him/her.

Once you are sure what tattoo design you want to ink on yourself, you are half way to success. This has to be the most important step as you can hardly remove or cover a tribal tattoo. Better be rigid with your decision and make a proper study  behind the design you are getting inked. Finding a proper tattooist is another difficult task. You might require a lot of time to just find a perfect tattooist who can understand the vibe behind the tattoo you are about to ink on yourself. If the tattooist is already experienced with tribal tattoos, it will be easier. The tattoo appearance solely depends on the one who is inking it.

You also need to find a proper environment where you should begin the inking procedure. No matter how experienced or good skill the tattooist has, if his/her tattoo shop is dirty or messed up, you would better not get the inking. Because, a clean tattoo shop along with cleaner needles or other equipment will only give you an infection-free or proper satisfying result. Keep the following things on mind:

Things to keep in mind:

  1. The entire tattoo shop should appear clean with no junks or rusts, also no dirt and dust.
  2. There should be an autoclave for the sterilization of needles, you better consult, ask, and view it yourself.
  3. The use of gloves should be made by the tattoo artist.
  4. The use of fresh or new needles right from the new packets instead of applying the used ones.
  5. Viewing his/her experienced work, or getting some feed back from the people s/he has already inked before.

This is really important to find out the works of your tattoo artist. You can ask him or her straight in the face to share the experience of tattooing tribal designs before. Moreover, you can consult with the people who have been inked before, and if they are satisfied with the work.  This is how you save yourself from the hand of inexperienced or amateur tattooist, and may be from the blunder inks.

Also See: 50 Dapper Conch Piercing Ideas That Will Entice You To Get One


Once you have found the perfect person or tattoo artist, you should again discuss your idea on getting the specific tribal design. Feed back of tattoo artist surely helps you to make any small modifications. This will guide you more. You should choose the date of getting inked yourself. If the tattooist is not free, reschedule but do not compromise the date when you are feeling low or not ready for getting the ink.

The day you are fearless, you get the inking done. Because, the tattoo gun will add more pain if your immune system is already low or you are scared or not ready for the tattoo. Therefore, have patience, and do not panic. While you are getting the inking done, keep on looking at it in times, and visualize it with the final one. This way the tattooist won’t add or mix up designs. This is how you get your designs instead of a random modification.


Basically a tribal tattoo will cost somewhere near about a random tattoo in your nearest tattoo shop. It actually depends upon the quality of needle, ink, and experience of the artist as well. Moreover, it will depend upon the size of tattoo you want to ink!

The custom cost of a random tribal tattoo sometimes is as little as 50 bucks. But this has to be the minimum cost world wide. If the size increases for entire sleeve, to chest, or even back, the price will be as much as 1000 bucks.

Sometimes, the charge fee is based upon hourly service instead of size. Because there is a lot of use of ink in tribal tattoo, the price can be even higher in some stores. So, it depends upon the criteria of the tattoo shop.

You should not worry much on getting tattooing done with lesser price. Because, it is a life time thing. If something goes wrong, like transmission of disease due to used needles can be really harmful for life. The use of poor ink can also lead to poor appearance of the tattoo.


When we talk abut mainly styling it, we think of only the modern tribal tattoos. Basically, when a tribal tattoo is worn out of belief or with some deeper meaning, the styling is not cared. But for making a beautiful appearance, or wearing it for solely the purpose of style, we need to know the styling techniques.

Modern tribal tattoos are unique, and somehow resembling only little with the traditional but. But they are attractive! You can get a tribal tattoo inked at distinct body part depending upon the appearance you wish to achieve. Moreover, adding barbed, flowing & tangled styles will resemble the traditional style with modern touch. You can style this way as well.


Getting a tribal tattoo can be more painful than getting a random tattoo. This is because of thick ink lines. The healing will be comparatively same. You need to wait until the healing is over. Till then, try your best to avoid all kinds of infections.

Obviously, tattooing will injure your skin cells, thus, you need to take a lot of care. An infection is actually result in losing a part of the organ or limb to losing the life. Thus, you should never take an infection so lightly. Moreover, getting a tattoo has various stages, the healing stage is the most important one.

If you find some unusual feeling around your tattoo area, do not google the symptoms but rather visit the doctor. You should not take the slightest or minor thing lightly. It might hamper later on.

The tattoo artist will as you to bandage the area inked after certain days of inking you. In some cases, they might call you for revisit to check on your tattoo. Wearing a bandage will avoid infections and this is highly recommended even for the smallest tattoo.

You can also find some anti bacterial soap to clean the area with instead of some random soap. This will help to keep the area clean and germ-free. But cleaning should be done gently by avoiding any kind of scratches or abrading of skin in rough manner. Moreover, rubbing is strictly prohibited no matter how itchy the area is!

You need to keep the area clean as well as dry. Dry area has often less chances of spreading bacteria. Open wounds will be more infectious. You can also get an antibiotic pill to be in the safe side once you get the tattoo.


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!


When we talk about tribal tattoos, we basically think about strength. Thus, men are quite more fond of tribal tattoos than women. They has fascination expressions with artistic designs. Everything is done under precision and accuracy. They resemble man’s masculinity along with bravery, power, and confidence.

Find some types or ideas below:

Tribal Tattoo Full Sleeve Idea

Full sleeve means a lot of tattoo work! But this has an outstanding result. Many men are seen with full sleeve tribal tattoos. They are mainly Polynesian ones. Mainly wrestlers, body builders, and men with huge body like to ink tribal tattoo over their entire arm!

Bold Maori Half Sleeve Tribal Tattoo

This is similar to above idea, but in a half sleeve. You can add turtle shells and even lotus flower that will represent rebirth, positive vibes, and happiness. The appearance is mind blowing.

Bold Maori Tribal Tattoo in Back

The tribal tattoo in the back means a lot of art work & inks! You can do plenty of creativity with it. Adding symmetric Polynesian tattoos will be amazing. Bold Maori tribal tattoo looks best in the back with all the geometric shapes & designs.

Samoan Tribal Leg Tribal Tattoo Idea

Legs are also quite popular spot for getting tribal tattoos. You can see an amazing result in the picture below.

Samoan Chest & Half Sleeve Tribal Tattoo

This tattoo originates from Polynesian tribe where chest is mostly used for inking. Samoan Chest tattoo describes masculinity and all the power or a strength of bearing the tattoo. The use of enata, shark teeth and other symbols enhance the tattoo. This tattoo really grabs all the attention. All the compliments will be on your way!

Modern Samoan Sleeve & Chest Tribal Tattoo

This one has a modern twist along with traditional art form. It has all the geometric features like circles, spirals, lines, curves, large sections with black inks, and everything that makes the design more beautiful. They symmetric patterns add more life to the geometric patterns. They look appealing to eyes.

Maori Shoulder & Half Sleeve Tribal Tattoo

Maori represents a tribe of New Zealand that has its unique features. Their tattoos are mostly curvilinear and intricate spirals. This gives alluring appearance along with the use of unique patterns or symbols. This is the only style with least thick lines but rather thin curves. They look amazing on arms exceeding to chest or back.



There are certain ideas that are basically worn by women. But there is no such gender bar when it comes to tribal tattoos.

Tribal Tikki & Sun Design Tattoo

Tribal Tikki and Sun tattoo is something that describes extreme black and bold. The sun basically goes well with moon together and there are various tattoos with the pair of sun and moon. This represents or means merging the opposite natures. This also represents harmony and how important is the merging of opposite natures for better life.

The combination of detailed lines or geometric patterns along with ‘enata’ and the sun makes it amazing in appearance. Enata is one of the common motifs in Polynesian tat that shows the relationship among the gods, humans, experiences of life. Sun is also a symbol of  power or strength.

When a sun is surrounded by moon, it means opposites merging together. But when a sun is covered by enata, it means god is there to protect the life of the bearer.

Geometric Tribal Tattoo

Geometric tribal tattoo has its origin from Hawaiian & Samoan tats. This one has basically some straight lines that have repetitive nature. This one is mainly for a woman, but these days it has nothing to do with gender. It is equally worn by men too. The meaning behind geometric tribal tattoo is reverence and expression of authenticity.


Tribal tattoos have been worn well by the celebs. Some of them have really worn them amazingly. Specially male celebrities including film stars, boxers, sportsmen, etc. have been seen with tribal tattoos. Dwayne “The Rock” has to be remembered when it comes to tribal tattoos as he has worn it amazingly. He has made it more common among the other wrestlers as well as actors too.

Similarly, talking about the recent series Game of Thrones, Jason Momoa as very popular Khal Drogo has worn the tribal tattoos so very well. He has been seen rocking the DC superhero movie Aquaman with same enthusiasm! Therefore, the tribal tattoos are very popular among celebs.

Some popular women celebrities like Daniella Pineda & Kate Del Castillo also have worn the tribal tattoos in a breathtaking manner, leaving everyone speechless. Moreover, Faith Evans has slayed the tribal tattoo alone her waistline in her bikini suit.



So this is the end of the article. To summarize it, tribal tattoos have greatest meaning. From generations to generations, it has been passed on. They are eye catching. There are plenty of options if you are looking into getting one. If you are influenced by its traditional meaning, go for it. If you are looking for some appealing patterns, still go for it. Though it has  some Native American blood cultures, but anyone can get one. Classic or modern, anyone will be a good choice. It is a world wide trend among tattoos.

Are you inspired to get one? Did you find what you were looking for? Was the article helpful? Do you know some tribal motifs that might be missing in this article? Feel free to share.

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