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85 Best Tribal Tattoo Designs and Meanings

Tribal tattoos originate from ancient times and had deep meaning. Nowadays they combine the style of original tribes and modern features. From noting social status and religious beliefs, tribal tattoo became individual artistic expressions.

Tribal Tattoo Designs that are still Gorgeous Today

Usually, you’ll find more tribal tattoos for men online. That is not too surprising since the style is not as delicate as tattoo designs for women. Often, you will find tribal shoulder tattoo or tribal back tattoos, but there are also tribal tattoos inked on other areas of the body. There’s so many choices of tribal tattoo designs that it certainly won’t be easy to just settle on a single design!

1. Half Body Tribal Tattoos for Men

Tribal tattoo on his arm and body man

Tribal tattoos for men can look amazing when inked on a big scale and with uniform shading just like in the image above. Even when the black ink has faded to look more gray-ish, it still looks amazing.

2. Tribal Back Tattoos

Usually, tribal tattoos for men extends from their arms to their back – the tattoo can expand in any directions that they want.

3. Tribal Tattoo Designs for Women

Typically, where tribal tattoo designs are involved, the designs are a lot smaller and intricate as compared to those on men. You can probably already see the difference from the first two images!

4. Spiralling Tribal Back Tattoos

Tribal tattoos do not need too much of an intricate shading, but this person took the time to include some good dotwork in this piece. That is certainly a matching design to the dotwork, don’t you think?

5. A Smaller Tribal Tattoo Design

It’s fine if you don’t want to commit to a full-sized tribal tattoo. Just go for a smaller design that lies on your arm like a sleeve tattoo – that works too!

6. Tribal Shoulder Tattoo

Most tribal shoulder tattoos also extend to the chest area. Tribal tattoos for men always look good across these two areas. This picture here is just a good example of this fact!

7. Tribal Tattoo for Women – Down the Length of the Body

While it’s true that tribal tattoos are not as common for women, that doesn’t mean that women do not ink tribal tattoos on themselves! This one here features a few repeating curves which make up a bigger tattoo.

8. Just the Thighs and Hips

Tribal tattoos have very expressive, rich, passionate, and ferocious design. You can usually see animal motifs in the tribal tattoo designs, juts like in this tattoo.

9. Cross Design Tribal Shoulder Tattoo

Shoulder tattoo for men can follow a cross design like this one. We love how there is a turtle design cleverly hidden inside this piece. Can you spot it?

10. Shoulder Tribal Tattoo with Inscriptions

Not all shoulder tribal tattoos look the same. In this case, there are some inscriptions to go along with the tribal design, and it looks great!

11. Half Completed Back Tribal Tattoo

This tattoo is an unfinished piece, yet it looks amazing already! It looks like this is a cover up tattoo for another different tattoo design underneath.

12. Arm Tribal Tattoos

Okay, this is one unique design that sort of reminds us of the Mayan tribe. It’s certainly an awesome tribal tattoo design well-suited for the arm areas!

13. Just Along the Shoulders & Neck

This simple tribal tattoo design also has a pair of wings along the side. Perhaps this is a slightly more modern twist to a tribal tattoo design! In any case, the pair of wings do look good with the tattoo.

14. Tribal Tattoo with Lotus

Here’s another different tribal tattoo design which has been personalized with something meaningful to the wearer. What do you think this tattoo represents when there’s a mix of tribal tattoos and lotus flowers?

15. Different Styles & Lines

The tribal tattoos here sport different styles and line thickness. Tribal tattoos for ladies tend to have thinner lines, while those for guys are thicker or more shaded.

Such type of body art dates back to over 5000 years ago.

16. Just a Single Strip

Tribal Tattoo with geometric designs on men back

This tribal back tattoo only takes up a small portion of the back instead of taking over the entire back. This is a little atypical when it comes to tribal tattoos for men, but hey, it’s gorgeous too!

It has the biggest variety of style because it depends on the diversity of different cultures and tribe’s traditions. Initially they were as attribute of identification for members of different races and cultures.

17. Like an Armband

As you can see from the previous designs on this page, tribal tattoo designs do well when placed on the arm – in this case, looking like an armband tattoo itself!

Some Interesting Facts from the History

As you have understood the word “tribal” deals with a lot of things in connection to some tribe, so the origin of such kind of tattoos is quite interesting.

18. Tribal Tattoo Design with Ocean Life

Usually, you will see tribal tattoos with black outlines, but this one here is different – it’s outlined in blue! That’s a good color for an octopus though.

19. Celtic-Inspired Tribal Tattoos

This tribal tattoo design here must have taken some inspiration from Celtic tattoo designs. There’s the knots, the cyclic patterns and more!

This looks like a good Polynesian tattoo design. The difference between tribal tattoos and Polynesian tattoos are very small, it’s sometimes hard to tell them apart!

In ancient time they were used:

  1. As an attribute of belonging to some tribe or social status;
Tribal tattoo around the male body Tribal tattoo with the geometric pattern on the shoulders of men Tribal tattoo on shoulder man
  1. As an expression of religious believes;
Tribal tattoo with the symbol of the sun on his back Tribal tattoo on shoulder man
  1. As a camouflage in the forest;
Tribal tattoo on shoulder Man in the form of twigs and stones
  1. As a treatment similar to acupuncture, but with leaving of sights on the body;
Tribal Tattoo of straight lines on the hand Tribal tattoo on his chest man
  1. As a way to communicate, for example, in Polynesia from which the word “tattoo” (originally as “tatau”) comes.
Tribal Tattoo – bend on the women’s side Polynesian Tribal tattoo on the back and neck of the girl

The Symbol Meaning

Such tattoos are known to mean courage, audacity, dynamics, and expressiveness. As they are unique they reveal its bearer’s character and feelings.

Powerful tribal tattoo for men

According to its elements and sketch tribal tattoo could symbolize

  • hope, 
  • balance, 
  • continuance, 
  • faith,
  • eternal life, etc.

For every tribe and culture tattoo was the way of showing connection or it was a reminder of some special event or phenomenon.

Tribal tattoo with triangular ornaments, imitation shark teeth

For ancient time Polynesia people were inspired by animals such as shark. For example its teeth meant protection and shell symbolize wealth.

Tribal tattoo on arm with a shark tooth ornament Tribal tattoo on shoulder blade girl – shark

Peculiarities of Design

Such tattoos are highly symbolical and complicated, so it’s better to decide properly which design to choose.

More often it is made in black color, but a very few are mixed colored, for example sketch in red and black design is the most popular.

Tribal black and red tattoo on his shoulder man Tribal tattoo on shoulder man – the sun Tribal tattoo on the back of man – Eagle


  1. Celtic cross is the most popular.
Tribal tattoo on shoulder guy
  1.  There is also the scheme of dragon,
Tribal tattoo on the back of the girl – dragon Tribal tattoo on shoulder of guy – Lion Tribal tattoo on the back of man – Taurus
  1. Back design for men elements of which include Aztec culture with symbols of the sun and moon joined together. Back design for women is less massive and includes more modernized elements.
Tribal Aztec tattoo on his chest man – the sun and the moon together

Turtle is a symbol of strength, long life, and wisdom.

Tribal tattoo on shoulder blade guy – Turtle
  1. Shoulder design for man and woman made up of different spirals and curves combined in complex design. Small components compose big design.
Tribal tattoo on shoulder man
  1. Rib tattoos with long lines.
Tribal tattoo on the ribs of the girl 3d Tribal tattoo on his shoulder and chest man
  1. Chest tattoos that looks like a t-shirt and have very complex design.

They are popular among men. Nowadays it is common to mix thick black lines with thinner black ones.

They are combined in shape and forms not necessarily with tribal initial origin and meaning.

Tribal tattoo on the chest of a man Tribal tattoo guy sleeve

and half sleeve tattoos that cover the whole hand and even shoulder.

Tribal tattoo guy half sleeve
  1. Shoulder bold black cog piece with intricate flower shape below.
Modern Tribal tattoo with bird and landscape Tribal tattoo flower guy on the shoulder
  1. Tribal design with flowers is a good idea for women and girls.
Tribal tattoo flowers girl on the neck

Types of Tribal Tattoos

  1. Maori tattoos were drawn on face in New Zealand tribe.
Maori tattoo on the man’s face

Male version usually covered the whole man’s faces and female one covered only the area around the mouth and chin.

Maori tribal tattoo of the girl in the face, the neck and chest Large tribal tattoo along the back

Maori believed when person die light will shine through him/her and only tattoo shows who the person is.

Nowadays such tattoos incorporate some modern features and usually are going across the chest.

Maori tribal tattoo on the chest of a man

Leg tattoos were also popular among Maori people. They were used to cover warrior for instilling fear to their opponents.

Maori tribal tattoo on a man’s legs
  1. Haida tattoos of Native American tribe Haida.
Tribal tattoo with totem poles and symbols forefathers

They were influenced by astrology and also depicted animals, for example beavers,

Haida tribal tattoo on the arm of a man – a beaver


Haida tribal tattoo on the leg of a man – Bears


Haida tribal tattoo on the back of a guy – Thunderbird

and fish.

Haida tribal tattoos on the shoulder of the girl – fish

It was believed that wearing such depiction you could take some power of that animal. In fact, such design is rather masculine one.

  1. Borneo tattoos of the tribe of Southeast Asia.
Borneo Tribal tattoo with ornaments of flowers

They were used to depict the symbol of protection as scorpions,

Borneo tribal tattoo on shoulder man – Scorpio

dogs in bold colors,

Borneo Tribal tattoo on his chest man – two dogs


Borneo Tribal tattoo on the back of a guy – the dragon


Haida tribal tattoos on the back of the girl – Rose

and spirals.

Borneo Tribal tattoo on shoulder of guy – a spiral in the center of the flower

In ancient time men often covered their body from head to toe. Depicting Gecko was the most popular as a symbol of supernatural power.

Hawaiian tribal tattoos on the spine of the girl – Gecko

They depicted also orchid,

Hawaiian tribal tattoo on the side of the girl – orchids

sea shark,

Hawaiian tribal tattoo on his shoulder blade at the guy – sea shark

sea turtle,

Hawaiian tribal tattoo on his shoulder Man – sea turtle

Tiki (who was believed to be the first man on Earth), etc.

Polynesian tattoo sketch – Tiki Hawaiian tribal tattoo on his shoulder Man – Tiki and flowers Hawaiian tribal tattoo on his shoulder Man – Tiki

There is also Tiki who was a semi-god in Polynesian culture and symbolized protection.

Polynesian tribal tattoo on his leg the guy – Tiki

Tiki’s organs as nose, eyes, mouth, and side faces commonly are draw separated.

Polynesian tribal tattoo on his shoulder Man – Tiki

Another sketch illustrates turtle shell,

Polynesian tattoo sketch turtle shells Polynesian tattoo sketch – turtle shell Polynesian tribal tattoo on his shoulder blade at the guy – Turtle

sea shell,

Polynesian tattoo sketch – sea shell Polynesian tattoo sketch – sea shells


Polynesian tattoo sketch – Ocean Polynesian tattoo sketch – Ocean Polynesian tribal tattoo on his shoulder man – Ocean Polynesian tribal tattoo on his shoulder man – Ocean


Polynesian tattoo sketch – the sun Polynesian tattoo sketch – the sun Polynesian tribal tattoo on his leg the girl – the sun

and Marquesan cross.

Polynesian tattoo sketch – Marquesan cross Polynesian tattoo sketch – Marquesan cross Polynesian tribal tattoo on his shoulder Man – Marquesan cross Polynesian tribal tattoo on his shoulder Man – Marquesan cross

Where to Place it?

Tribal tattoos are worn by men and women as well.

Beautiful tribal tattoo on a man’s leg Beautiful tribal tattoo on a female leg

Such artistic design underlines body muscles and it looks outstanding on the man’s body.

Three Monkeys – tribal tattoo on the man’s shoulder Powerful tribal tattoo on the man’s shoulder

Nevertheless it looks great on the woman’s body also.

Elegant geometric tribal tattoo on a woman’s body Graceful tribal tattoo-mandola on a female back

There is some difference between men and women ways to place a tattoo. The most appropriate places for men are chest,

Tribal tattoo on his chest Man


Tribal tattoo sleeves guy


Tribal tattoo on his leg the guy


Tribal tattoo on shoulder man


Tribal tattoo on the back of a Man


Tribal tattoo on the buttocks guy

and face.

Tribal tattoo on his face Man

For women it is chin, lips,

Tribal tattoo on the face of the girl


Tribal tattoo on the neck of the girl

and back.

Tribal tattoo on the back of a girl

What part of body to chose depends also on the size of a sketch. Size could be small, middle and large. However even the largest one is the combination of small lines, spirals, circles, etc. Such tattoo also could stretch from ears to legs.

Most tribal tattoos on the body Man

Most Maori tattoos are done on arms.

Maori tribal tattoo half sleeve guy

Celebrities with tribal tattoos

As you can see tribal tattoos have deep symbolical meaning and huge variation. That’ why you should think twice before choosing design which is better for you. Such tattoos are also famous among celebrities as Mike Tyson,

Tribal tattoo on the face Mike Tyson

Tommy Lee,

Tribal tattoo on the chest of Tommy Lee – the lions

Jamie Foxx

Tribal tattoo on the chest and shoulders of Jamie Foxx Tribal tattoo on the back of Jamie Foxx Tribal tattoo on the head of Jamie Foxx Tribal tattoo on the head of Jamie Foxx

and a lot of others.

Sketches of Tribal tattoo


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