What do different Polynesian tattoos mean?

For years, historians were intrigued with the designs and meaning behind each Polynesian tattoo. They wanted to explore the century-old stories associated with them. With so much of a background, a person who is inclined towards nature or tribal designs should go for them. However, they are only for people with strong personality. You need a tough aura to have the Samoan motif inked on you.

polynesian tattoo

polynesian tattoo

8 interesting Polynesian tattoo designs and their explanations:

  • Shells:

You will find a variety in the category of shells in Polynesian tattoo. A majority of them are turtle shells. They stand for wellness, long-life, fertility, and peace. Occasionally, you will come across sea shells that represent intimacy and protection. Additionally, they brought good luck and prosperity to the wearer. Usually, people in relationships or groups opt for the shells. Most Polynesian tattoos are equipped with religious and spiritual significance but the shells stand out for the community bonding and the nurturing of relationships.

  • Sun:

In Samoan tradition, the sun is a symbol for brightness, leadership, riches and grandeur. However, this is the most basic meaning that is common in a majority of the tribal traditions. What make the sun in Polynesian tattoo interesting are its rays. The kind of rays you choose will determine the whether it stands for eternity or rebirth. This is sometimes also used as a magical charm, often giving protection from evil forces.

  • Tikis:

It is a form of Hawaiian tattoo that has human figures in them. Some believed them to be the ancestors who would keep the evil spirits or bad energy away. If you look carefully, a majority of the tikis have closed eyes. This represents that the ability to smell any trouble that approaches you.

  • Sharks or Shark Teeth:

Interestingly, sharks in Samoan tradition are revered and considered sacred. You will find them ample in Polynesian tattoo. While the sharks scare many people, in this tradition they symbolize strength and protection. People who were warriors would wear them to scare their threats and enemies. More than the sharks, it is their teeth that are popular in tattoos.

  • Floral Motifs:

The Polynesian tattoo will have an exhaustive list of tattoos for women. The floral designs are very popular among them. They stand for feminine strength and beauty.   Getting the body inked with natural floral motifs was their way of showing respects to nature.

  • Marquesan:

This is most popular cross in Polynesian tattoo. It symbolizes harmony and balance in different elements. The cross was often mistaken for a lizard or the gecko symbols. However, the cross doesn’t have a tail.  These tattoos were considered very important in certain cultures, often embarking on the meaning of the course of life. They were worn not only to improve their looks but also to show which person belonged to which rank.


  • Spiral tattoos:

They were very popular in New Zealand. Representing beauty, passion, strength and courage, they are usually done on the back especially on the spine. Women, as well as men, would sport this Polynesian tattoo.

These tattoos are art in themselves. The designs depict are irony in themselves. They look complicated yet neat, strong and yet warm. Back then in the tribal days, the eligibility to get a tattoo was 12 years of age. This was seen as the time that marked physical as well as mental transformation in a person. Go through the designs carefully and research about their meaning, history and tradition in detail. Make sure you choose the right part for the tattoo. Look for a good tattoo artist who can get the detailed tattoo for you.

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