50+ Pirate Tattoo Designs and Ideas

By Jason Hamilton / April 13, 2018
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Arr! Ahoy Me Matey! Since the release of Pirates of the Caribbean, the world has been drawn to the culture and lifestyle of pirates. Thousands upon thousands of people flock pirate-themed rides in amusement parks and pirate-themed restaurants just to have a glimpse and feel to be a pirate. Oftentimes, sports teams also name their teams as pirates, Buccaneers, or raiders because of our fascination with pirates. The thrill of sailing across the seven seas has captivated everyone’s imagination. Due to this fascination we have on pirate culture, a lot of people want to have pirate tattoos be inked on their skin.

If you consider yourself as one of the curious fellows who want to have a pirate tattoo, you came to the perfect place as we will give you ideas to fantastic pirate tattoo designs. Aside from this, we will give you a background on pirate culture and the meaning of various symbols that are often inked as a pirate tattoo.


Pirate Culture & History

It would be safe to assume that pirates existed ever since sea travel was invented but the first recorded pirates were the Sea People during the early Egyptian Civilization. These pirates rove the coast to terrorize Egyptians and rob ships of shipments. They often raided coastal towns in fleets to suppress local resistance and get what they wanted.


From the creation of the Sea People until the late 1800s, the perception of society on pirates never changed. They are perceived to be people without culture and etiquette. They are seen as pests on society and maritime travel. These impressions slowly mellowed in the early 1900s when various books with a lead pirate character were released. Adding to these mellowing beliefs are films that ultimately changed the image of pirates in modern culture. One of these early films were The Black Pirate (1926) and Treasure Island (1950).

Today, we now have a romanticized image of pirates due to the Pirates of the Caribbean film series and various video games such as Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag that perceives pirates as the torchbearer of freedom during the days of old. These two particularly capitalizes and expands on this romanticized image that pirates have these swanky ships and golden hearts to bring freedom across the seas.


Do Pirates Still Exists Today?

Surprisingly, they still even exist in today’s modern age. Pirates are quite notorious in the Red Sea and the coast of Somalia today. These pirates often raid cargo ships, yachts, and cruise ships with small motorboats. Because of this, modern day pirates do not bear the pirate symbols we know such as the Jolly Roger. So, relax. You will not be called a pirate when you have a pirate tattoo.

 Pirate Tattoo Meaning & Designs

The usual pirate tattoo designs that a person wants to ink is a usually a symbol that is prevalent in pirate culture. The meaning of these of symbols changed overtime to contain a mellower tone so here we will provide you design ideas for your next pirate tattoo design and the modern-day meaning of the said design.


Jolly Roger

The Jolly Roger is the traditional English name for the flags flown by ships under piracy that is about to attack a merchant or naval ship. This symbol is the most common to be associated with pirates and has been imprinted to our culture as the main symbol of piracy. The meaning of this symbol today is danger or a carefree life like the ones lived by pirates.

Are you a carefree person with no mind to danger? This tattoo design is perfect for you! Here are a few images we saw on the web that will definitely make you want one inked.

  1. A small arm tattoo of the Jolly Roger.

2. A large intricate back tattoo of the Jolly Roger.


3. A chest tattoo of the Jolly Roger.


4. A small colored tattoo of the Jolly Roger.


5. A Jolly Roger Flag tattoo on the chest.

6. A heavily tattered Jolly Roger flag tattoo on the leg.


7. A tattered Jolly Roger flag as a tattoo on the thigh.

8. A cartoonish Jolly Roger tattoo on the leg.

Jolly Roger Leg Tattoo

9. The Jolly Roger symbol of One Piece as a leg tattoo.


10. A sleeve tattoo of the Jolly Roger in black.


The steering wheel of a ship is called a helm. This symbol is not only associated with piracy but rather to all aspects of maritime life. This symbol often accompanies other pirate symbols in a tattoo but can also stand alone. The meaning of a helm as a tattoo design is adventure and free spirit. It means that the one who has this tattoo always want to explore the world and does not want to be contained.

Feeling adventurous? Perhaps you live at the helm. Here are some of the helm tattoo ideas we saw on the web.

  1. An arm tattoo of a helm with an anchor.

2. A medium-sized tattoo of a ship’s steering wheel on the chest.

3. An extremely detailed tattoo of a pirate ship’s helm on the leg.


4. A leg tattoo of a ship’s helm with an eye in the middle.


5. A chest tattoo of a half-helm.

6. A large chest tattoo of a pirate ship’s steering wheel.


7. A highly detailed tattoo of a wooden ship’s helm.

8. A back tattoo of a helm with other nautical elements such as an anchor and a compass.

9. A simple shoulder tattoo of a wooden ship’s helm.


Pirate Ship

This is by far the most complex pirate tattoo design out there as it is often depicted as a ship in rough seas. The pirate ship often said to be the living body of pirates. A pirate is not a pirate without a ship as they often say. The pirate ship symbolizes bravery and exploration as it carries brave souls across rough seas to find new lands to raid.

You think you are brave enough to get this tattoo? You are in luck! Here are some of the most detailed pirate ship tattoo ideas we saw that you will absolutely like!

1. A large arm tattoo of a large pirate ship.

Pirate Ship Arm Tattoo

2. A tattoo of a small pirate ship with blue embellishments.


3. A sleeve tattoo of a pirate ship in a hazy environment.


4. A large arm tattoo of a ghost pirate ship.

5. A small hand tattoo of a large pirate ship.

6. A ribcage tattoo of a pirate ship at sea.

7. An intricate tattoo design of a pirate ship inked on the side.

8. A detailed pirate ship tattoo on the sleeve area.

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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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