The History, Meanings, and Culture of the Polynesian Tattoos


In Polynesian culture, tattoos were considered sacred. Inking a tattoo was done with tribal dance and drum beats. The person who wanted the tattoo had to go through a series rituals before and after inking. Tattoos used rough hardware such as turtle shells, bird bones, bamboos, and other similar tools. Although these tattoos took a long time to heal, people loved them. They represented power, fearlessness, and social standing.

As this is considered an age of transition from childhood to adulthood, 12 years was the minimum age to qualify for a tattoo. Every achievement was celebrated with a tattoo. A tattoo was awarded for every achievement. A Polynesian culture valued having multiple tattoos on one’s body as a sign of status. These tattoos could be done on both men and women of the tribes. The body parts that could be tattooed on ladies were the arms, jaws, lips, and palms.

Polynesian tattoos show great craftsmanship. Be that as it might, you should research the meanings of tattoos on Polynesia before you get started. Your tattoo should reflect your personality and convey the message you want to portray. Once you have completed your tattoo, it is important to keep an eye on it. A well-cared-for tattoo always looks beautiful and fresh.

Polynesian tattoo styles

Two styles are used by Polynesians in tattoo design.


Etua is a symbol of spiritual and religious significance. This style uses mysterious symbols that are believed to provide insurance from the Gods.


Enata’s regular designs depict a person’s social status, character and occupation.

Many Polynesian tattoos represent strength, courage, success, security, and blessings of the Gods. If you do decide to get a Polynesian tattoo design, you should understand what they represent. You should know what you are getting when you get a tattoo.

Polynesian Tattoo Elements

These elements will give you a great starting point for visualizing the design of your next tattoo. We will also explain the meanings and symbolism of each component. There is nothing worse than getting tattoos you don’t know. The history and significance of Polynesian tattooing is extensive. Please respect this convention by visiting skilled artists.


Because the Ocean is the final destination for Polynesian people, it can also be used in tattooing to signify death and the great beyond. The ocean holds a double meaning. It is a source of sustenance, ripeness and persistence. The ocean is the end of a life cycle.


In Polynesian tattooing, the sun is a central figure. The sun is a symbol of prosperity, splendor and grandiosity. However, it can also be used in combination with other elements of Polynesian Tattooing to convey different meanings. Each element of the sun’s rays and size can have a different meaning. A rising sun could be associated with resurrection while a sunset could be associated with the end of life.

Shark Teeth (Niho mano)

The legend of the Polynesian shark represents the divine power of Polynesian people. Therefore, shark teeth are a prominent part of the majority of Polynesian tattooing. The symbol of shelter, scope and direction, force, savagery and flexibility, shark teeth can be displayed in many ways (in individual rows, different rows or even vertically). 


There are two types of Polynesian tattooing: Turtle Shells and Sea Shells. The turtle shells have a shared significance (long life, family, harmony, etc.). Seashells also represent safety, protection, and sometimes closeness. In Polynesian tattooing you will see both types of shells. Below we have listed a collection of Turtle Shells.


In Polynesian tattooing, Enata represent gods and men. A reversed Enata could be used to signify a foe and a mixture of Enata may be used as a defense structure. You can also use Enata to create other traditional Polynesian tattoo elements such as the Turtle, which you can read more about below.


The Turtle tattoo in Polynesian tattooing has a number of meanings. These include wellness, ripeness and family, concordance and a long, healthy life (time eternal). The turtle can also be used as a navigational aid. A turtle can also be frame by brushing two Enata simultaneously.


Spearheads are used in nearly all Polynesian Tattoo Ideas. Spearheads are used to show valor, dominance, self-discipline, and predominance – and are a standard in Polynesian design. Spearheads, like the sun’s rays, can be used with certain elements to convey different meanings. A line of spearheads that runs parallel to an upside-down Enata line can signify the destruction of enemies.


The symbol of the Polynesian Semi-Gods is the Tiki. The Tiki is a Guardian and represents assurance. Different elements of the Tiki may have different meanings. For instance, if the Tiki is seen sniffing its nose it indicates that it is sensing danger before it enters.

Reptile (Moko).

In Polynesian tattoo design, Lizards and Geckos can be regarded as Gods. These gods are known as “Moko”, because Moko is Maori’s name for facial tattooing. The ancestors and protectors of the Polynesian people, Lizards are considered to be the ability to resolve any problems between the spirit world and the living.

Marquesan Cross

The Marquesan Cross is a symbol used in Polynesian Tattooing to signify harmony or agreement. Commonly confused with Lizard symbols, a distinctive element of the Marquesan Cross is the lack of a tail or head. It is not known where the component was born.

Tattoos and Culture

These tattoos should be investigated for their social meaning on the many islands of the Pacific Ocean.

Hawaiian Tattoos

Hawaiian tattoos were used to identify a person or as a fashion statement. To protect the wearer against mishaps, tattoos were accepted. These tattoos were also used to honor the deceased, who were often close to the wearer.

Maori Tattoos

Maori tattoos in New Zealand are distinctively designed with a spiral design. They signify strength, courage, social status and passion. These tattoos have markings that reveal the position of a person and signify their progression through life.

Samoan tattoos

Samoan tattoos are like documentation. They tell the story of the person sporting the tattoo. It includes rank, age, social standing. These tattoos can be confusing and large. Both men and women can embellish them.

Cook Island Tattoos

Tattoos on Cook Island had markings that linked the wearer with his or her tribe.

Tahitian Tattoos

Tahiti tattoos were inked based on social standing and position. Only tribe members who were privileged enough to be tattooed were allowed. These tattoos were inked all over the body and sometimes even on the faces.

Marquesan Tattoos

This island’s culture is dependent on tattooing. Tattoos were used to enhance physical appearance, to signify the passage in life, and to indicate the position of a person within a tribe or society.

Easter Island Tattoos

The majority of tattoos on this island are religious in nature. These tattoos are believed to bless the skin and allow the wearer to communicate with God.

Tonga Tattoos

Tonga tattoos are fundamentally the exact same as Samoan tattoos. They tell the story of the wearer, show his position in society, and indicate his age.

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Don’t wait another day to get the Polynesian tattoo of your dreams. Visit Opal Lotus in Katy today and experience top-notch tattoo artistry delivered with precision and care. Take advantage of our fantastic deals while they last – book your appointment now!

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