156 Polynesian Tattoos - Photos, Designs for men and women


Polynesian tattoos have a deep symbolism and seem slightly rough. In the article we will tell you about the meaning and features of images, as well as provide an original collection of photos with sketches.

The first pictures on the body appeared on the Pacific islands. For the Indians, they were like memoirs: they told about status in society, exploits, physical and spiritual development. It was believed that the image connected people with the gods and significantly influenced their fate. Polynesian tattoos were inked exclusively by the priests for several months. The process was accompanied by special rites and songs to support the man. The priest attached a stencil with the image to the body. Using a hammer and a sharpened tooth he cut out the elements and covered them with a dye. The pigment was made from the sap of coniferous trees. The blood was constantly wiped — not a single drop should fall to the ground. After this process had been finished, the juice of tropical plants was rubbed into the skin to make it turn pale, and the contrast of the black lines and the white body was obtained. The men were expelled from society if the tattoo wasn’t finished.

The nobility had more tattoos than people with low status. Men most often in ked Polynesian tattoos on their faces (especially the chiefs), on the area from the waist to the knees. Large spirals were tattooed on the buttocks (folded ones meant infinity and perfection, unfolded — renewal and restoration). The position of man in society could be determined by the patterns on the chest and wrist. Ornament on the forehead meant success in battles, on the cheeks — the profession, on the chin — the origin. Women had fewer body pictures, mostly tattooed on the lips and chin.


Sketches of Polynesian tattoos were brought to the West by James Cook’s assistant in the late 18th century. The sailor introduced the word “tattoo” into English, which in translation from the dialect of the tribe meant either “beating” or “picture”.


Tattoo in the Polynesian style looks rough and massive, hidden aggressiveness can be seen as well. A picture or pattern consists of thin, wide and short lines, zigzags and waves that are combined into geometric figures. There is no trick of color palette and shadows, abstraction and blurry outlines. The pictures are symmetrical and clear, they are made with a black pigment, although now you can add a few colors, especially bright colors to the picture. This tattoo looks gently and feminine. It is widely spread among girls.

Each element has a deep meaning and carries a large energy charge that can change the fate of the person. Lines in the form of fish scales protect people from danger and enemies. An element of bonito or tuna means energy, resourcefulness and skill. It can be a part of a pattern or animal. It is depicted in the form of teeth arranged in two rows so that we get white rhombs in the middle. Shark teeth (several black triangles are linked by one line) means protection in water, fearlessness, strength, the ability to adapt in any situation. According to the legend a girl was bitten by a shark while bathing. But she kept wits and shouted her name in response. The predator apologized and swam away. The marks of teeth mean that the girl is its friend. Since then, the shark’s teeth have been tattooed on the ankle (niho mano).

Polynesian pattern is quite complicated, so many people go to Tahiti, Easter Island, Samoa or Haiti to get tattooed by a qualified artist. However, many sources were destroyed after the Spanish conquerors and the meaning of certain symbols is unknown. Besides, it is necessary to take into account that Polynesian tattoos are divided into several subtypes. Each island has its own motives and tattooing techniques. Ornaments, images of skulls, wreaths and flowers prevail on the Hawaiian Islands. On the island of Samoa, they ink the tattoo in an old school way: not with a needle, but with a pig or shark tooth.

A tattoo in Polynesian style should be carefully selected according to the meaning, volume and location. Lines and small figures can get lost in the bends of the body, the picture will be cut off, so you need to take into account the definition of muscles.


Each image has a deep symbolism and is intertwined in legends and beliefs.
It is believed that the first tattoo on the bodies of the Indians was a tattoo of the sun in the Polynesian style. It illuminates the life journey, and doesn’t let you go into the darkness after death. The picture means life and immensity, good luck in endeavors, brings positive and happiness. The rising star is the symbol of a new life and wisdom, awakening of energy, and the sunset is the rebirth of all living creatures.

Polynesian moon is often used in female images. It embodies femininity, spiritual strength and greatness, devotion to the chosen occupation. The image is widely spread among businessmen, as it helps achieve the set goals. If it is portrayed with a dolphin, it will be treated as a wise leader. The moon is always depicted an increasing crescent. It patronizes hunters. Along with the sun, it gives a chance to make impossible plans possible, supports ambitious and purposeful people.

Polynesian turtle tattoo is also favored by fair ladies. It embodies the family, fertility and longevity. It helps find harmony of the spirit and the body. It is the guardian of the hearth and protection against misfortune. Turtle and sunrise mean hard work. Polynesian warriors used its armor as a shield, so the figure has one more meaning: strength of the body and the spirit, stamina and steadiness. According to the legend, the turtle carries over souls to the realm of the dead, so after death, the Polynesians tattooed the sign of a person walking beside or sitting on a shell.

The image of a shark means perseverance and power, protection from enemies and troubles. The Polynesians believed it was a sacred animal. They worshiped its power and strength. The picture of fish in the form of a triangle meant resistance to misfortune. If it was depicted under the star, it meant imperishable strength and power. If there was a dolphin beside it, it meant a strong and true friendship.

The image of lizard on the body is a link to the gods and access to other worlds. According to the legend, the gods come to a man exclusively in the form of a gecko, so the image represents a supernatural power that is passed to the possessor. Such a tattoo meant physical strength, hardness, endurance and quickness for the warriors. If a lizard was tattooed with a turtle, it meant the person stood by his words and deeds.

Warriors and hunters inked the mask of Tiki deity to protect themselves from evil spirits and death. The image is suitable for temperamental and courageous men. The picture can be supplemented with various elements, including: shark teeth, tuna, birds, waves, little men.

Polynesian tattoo of a skate means elegance, spiritual beauty, grace and freedom. It is a powerful defense. Often there are hooks in this picture symbolizing luck, masks of Tiki — protection from everything evil, hibiscus flower — beauty, cross — harmony and balance, shark teeth. Each image can be supplemented with other details. The skate was worshipped among the Polynesians, since it was considered to be one of the most dangerous inhabitants of the oceans. Therefore, it can mean dexterity and cunning. This Polynesian tattoo is inked on the shoulder or back, ankle or foot. It looks good on the small of the back in case of girls.


A picture on the body adds masculinity and brutality, if you put it on your back or forearm, covering a part of your chest. It looks good as a sleeve for the entire length or from the shoulder to the elbow, from the elbow to the neck.

Often men ink this kind of tattoos on legs up to the knees, on calves, from the side of the shin or from the foot and up to the hip. The composition can consist of several pictures or a thin strip of ornament descending along the abdomen or back.


The pictures look too massive for a woman’s body, but you can choose a beautiful image to make it seem light and delicate, not overwhelmed by wide lines. Polynesian style tattoos are inked on the leg, arm and shoulder, but they look feminine and luxurious on the shoulder blade, back, and small of the back. Pictures of lizards or skate look more graceful, when the tail is presented as a flexible or twisted circle. The composition can be supplemented with flowers or fern (peace and calmness), butterflies and dragonflies (spiritual transformation), birds (freedom and control over the situation).

Polynesian tattoos don’t fit well with bright and voluminous images of other styles. Don’t tattoo too small images: each picture consists of a large number of different parts, they can visually merge into a black and white spot. The beauty and mightiness of the tattoo will be lost.

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