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50+ Samoan Tattoos for those Looking for Some Cool tribal Designs

By Jason Hamilton / June 29, 2020
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If you happen to get a glimpsed at The Rock, you may have noticed his tattoo. For some, they call those enchanting black patterns etched on The Rock’s skin as tribal tattoos. But for us tattoo enthusiasts and experts, we call it a Samoan tattoos. Now, what is this intricately-detailed tattoo, you say? Let’s take a closer look, shall we?


Tatau AKA Samoan Tattoos: A Deeper Understanding

For starters, tatau and Samoan tattoos are the same. “Tatau” is just what Samoans call it in their language. But unlike any other tattoo, this one plays an important role in the culture and history of Samoans.

Tataus are considered as a symbol for high standings in the Samoan society. Samoans also view it as their way of life. Aside from being a representation of one’s standing in the society, Samoans also wear a tatau to visually represent the pain they suffered from to get it with undergoing the extensive painful process of getting the tatau itself. In addition to that, Samoans also consider such tattoo as a hallmark of their manhood or womanhood.


Kinds of Tataus and its History

There are actually two kinds of tataus: the pe’a and malu. The former is worn by men and is much larger. On the other hand, the latter is for women.

According to a Samoan legend, the art of tattooing was brought to Samoans by two sisters who were from Fiti. The tale says the two women, who came ashore with their tools – which was made of bone or boar husk sharpen into a comb-style shape with serrated teeth-like needles attached to a small piece of a sea turtle shell connected to a wood handle – and knowledge of tattooing, sang a song that women are only to be tattooed. But as they neared the beach shores, the song was mistakenly reversed, indicating that men will be tattooed.


At first, no one was interested in their skills and art. Until finally, one of the Samoan chiefs decided to try it out. Soon after, the art of tatau became a family tradition that spread throughout the culture.

Samoan Tattoos’ Meaning

If you will take a closer look at this tribal tattoo, you will see that each of them has repeating symbols. These symbols aren’t just made-up. Apparently, they hold different meanings. Take a look at their meanings:


Tiki – The Tiki is actually believed to be the first man that God created, based on the Maori mythology. And when you see this symbol included in a Samoan tattoo, this means protection against possible mishaps.

Shells – Whether it’s a seashell or a turtle’s shell, this symbol represents wellness, peace, longevity, ad fertility. They can also mean protection and intimacy.


Marquesan Cross – Originated from turtles, Samoans often associate it with harmony and balance.

Sun- The sun is a symbol of riches and leadership.


Ocean – This is like the Christian’s heaven for Polynesians. Also, it is often used to fill spaces on a tattoo.

Shark Teeth – This one is a symbol of adaptability, ferocity, and power.

Spear Head – Since spears are their main weapon back in the old days, this signifies courage and battles – literally and/or figuratively.

You can combine them however you want for the purpose of aesthetics, as well as the meanings that you want them to show. The options are limitless and each combination can tell unique stories.

Samoan Tattoos Placement

Now that you know its meanings, you’re probably wondering where you will place it. Don’t worry, we got your back.

Samoan tattoos are very detailed and quite large since they tell stories. For that reason, it is necessary to place them in parts where larger tattoos will fit. In this way, you can get to have clear details. Here’s a list of placements we highly suggest.


A Samoan tattoo on the right rib area


This one is also on the right rib area but is placed just below the chest

A golden brown and black ink Samoan tattoo also on the right rib area


This one is in a rectangular shape

A Samoan rib tattoo paired with flower tattoos


This one is combined with cross tattoos


This foot tattoo is paired with a plumeria flower

A foot tattoo that stretches up to the toes


A foot tattoo that starts from the left ankle

Another Samoan tattoo paired with a plumeria


A black ink tatau on the left foot

This one is shaped like a whale’s tail



A Samoan tattoo covering the whole leg


This Samoan tattoo is placed on the side part of the left leg

A tatau paired with a blackout tattoo


An intricately detailed Samoan tattoo on the left leg

A tatau on the right leg with red ink accents


A full sleeve Samoan tattoo on the left arm


An armband tattoo of a tatau

Samoan tattoo patterns etched on both forearms


A full sleeve tatau placed on the left arm


A tatau with a big sun symbol placed o the left forearm


A giant tipi and a Samoan tattoo in the shape of a shark

A tatau covering the whole back area

A back tattoo connected to a full sleeve tatau

Another full back tatau with shark teeth symbols tracing the spinal column

A unique tatau shaped like a manta ray


A Samoan tattoo in red and black ink placed on the right shoulder

A half sleeve tattoo that starts at the right shoulder

A Samoan shoulder tattoo shaped like an armor


A Samoan tattoo placed on the left shoulder

A tatau etched on the left shoulder


A Samoan tattoo in black and maroon ink placed on the left part of the chest

This one, on the other hand, is placed on the right chest area and is purely made with black ink

A Samoan chest tattoo that’s connected to a full sleeve tatau on the right arm

A combination of chest and half-sleeve Samoan tattoos with a swirling shape

A unique combination of half-sleeve, chest, and shoulder Samoan tattoo designs


A Samoan thigh tattoo looking like a real pair of shorts

A Samoan tattoo with plumeria flowers etched on the left thigh

A Samoan tattoo that starts on the thigh and stretches down to the ankle

A Samoan tattoo placed on the left thigh

Another Samoan tattoo designs that look like pairs of pants


A Samoan tattoo that stretches from the side of the breast down to the stomach

Samoan tattoos placed on the right arm and the right side of the stomach

A Samoan tattoo covering the whole torso

This tattoo starts from the ribs and stretches down to the hips

A tatau etched on the arms, chest, stomach, and thighs


A tatau with plumeria tattoos etched on the ribs down to the thigh

A tatau on the hips stretching down to the thigh

Another tatau that starts on the rib area and ends on the thigh

A smaller Samoan tattoo paired with a hibiscus tattoo for those who want to keep it simple

This Samoan tattoo gives off a more feminine vibe with its swirly details and colored plumeria

But Who can Wear this Tattoo?

Tatau, again, plays a big part in the history, culture, and way of life of the Samoans. Hence, it is very significant for them. While it’s easy to find a tattoo artist to ink a Samoan-looking skin art, you will likely get some side glances, head-to-toe scanning, sigh, and/or headshakes from some Samoans who hold their culture dear to their hearts if you are not a Samoan.

However, there some who are okay with that even if you’re not a Samoan. After all, it’s your body and you have control over doing what you want. But then again, be prepared for the mixed reactions that you will likely receive for it.

Such tattoo is also for those who can bear the pain of the tattooing process. This is because unfinished tatau is considered a sign of cowardice. It’s not required to have it all inked in one day, though but be sure to have it complete no matter what happens.

Also, if you were to ink tattoos significant for other cultures like this one, we also remind you to be respectful of your tattoo as some might be sensitive about it.

There are a lot of cool tattoo designs out there. Samoan tattoos (also known as tatau) are one of them because apart from its various symbols and meanings that you can combine, you can also get to use it to show how proud you are of your culture and heritage if you’re a Samoan. As for non-natives, it is also a cool tattoo to have because of its unique aesthetics that are definitely attention-grabbing.

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About the author

Jason Hamilton

Jason has been an avid fan of tattoos for over 13 years now. He is currently 35 years old, and he got his first tattoo at the age of 22. Since then, he has added over 20 tattoos to his collection. He is also into writing, which is why he decided to celebrate both of his passion and hobby through tats ‘n’ rings. Jason dreams of having his very own tattoo parlor soon. Jason would be very happy to answer any questions about tattoos that you may have! Leave a comment below and he’ll answer it for you right away!

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