Tattoo Ideas

10 Polynesian Tattoo Ideas And Their Meanings

Polynesian tattoo ideas and elements for inspiration

Looking for ideas for your next Polynesian tattoo? We’ve got you covered. Instead of posting specific Polynesian tattoo ideas and designs, we’ve decided to give you a listing of 10 popular Polynesian tattoo elements that you can use for inspiration.

These elements should give you an excellent starting point to visualize the look of your next tattoo rather than arbitrarily seeking a Polynesian tattoo design. We’re also presenting you with the meanings and symbolism for each element, as there’s nothing worse than getting a tattoo you don’t understand. Polynesian tattooing has a deep history and meaning, honour the tradition by visiting artists who have proven their craft.


Shark Teeth (Niho Mano)

In Polynesian lore sharks represent the god of Polynesian people, for this reason, shark teeth are highly prevalent in the majority of Polynesian tattooing. Sharks teeth – a symbol for shelter, coverage, guidance, power, ferocity, and adaptability – can be displayed in a variant of combinations (as individual rows, multiple rows, horizontal, vertical, etc).



The sun has deep meaning in Polynesian tattooing. Generally – prosperity, brilliance, grandiosity, and leadership – however in conjunction with other elements of polynesian tattooing, the sun can take on different meanings. The suns rays, size, and shape can all express a different associated meanings. A rising sun can be connected with rebirth, while a sunset can be connected with the afterlife.



In Polynesian tattooing their are Turtle Shells, and Sea Shells. Turtle Shells share meaning with their turtle counterpart (long life, family, harmony etc.). Sea shells on the other hand represent protection, a shield, and in certain cases intimacy. It’s common to see both types of shells in Polynesian tattooing, below we’ve depicted a set of Turtle Shells.




Enata are used in Polynesian tattooing to symbolize both gods and men and rank in society. In common design a reversed Enata can be used for representing an enemy, and a combination of Enata can be used to represent a defensive structure. Enata can also be used to form other traditional Polynesian tattoo elements, such as the Turtle you can read about below.



Common meanings for the Turtle in Polynesian tattooing are wellness, fertility, family, harmony, and a long life (eternity). Turtles also act as a navigational guide. Uniquely a turtle can be formed by combing two Enata in parallel.




Spearheads are quite commonly used in almost all Polynesian Tattoo Ideas. They’re used to express courage, dominance, and willpower – and are a staple of Polynesian design. Like the sun, spearheads are used in conjunction with specific elements to convey different meanings. For example; a line of spearheads parallel to a line of upside down Enata can represent the defeat of one’s enemies.



The Tiki is a symbol of the Polynesian Semi-Gods. As a Guardian, the Tiki mainly represents protection. Different elements of the Tiki can symbolize different meanings; for instance, when the nose is seen to be “sniffing” it means that it is sensing danger prior to it’s arrival.



Lizard (Moko)

Lizards and Geckos are regarded as forms of Gods with regards to Polynesian tattoo design. These gods are called “Moko”, co-incidentally Moko is the name for facial tattooing in the Maori culture. Lizards are regarded as the ancestors of the polynesian people with the power to bridge the gap between the spirt world, and the living.


Marquesan Cross

The Marquesan Cross is widely used in Polynesian Tattooing to symbolize a balance between elements, or a harmony. Often confused with Lizard symbols; a distinguishing factor is the lack of a tail, or head in the Marquesan Cross. The origin of the element is still unknown to this day.




The Polynesian people highly regard the ocean as their final destination when they pass away, therefore the Ocean in Polynesian tattooing can represent death, and an afterlife. The ocean has a dual meaning in that it also represents a food source, fertility, and persistence. The ocean is the complete lifecycle.


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