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The Shark Tattoo Meaning and 100 Powerful Designs to Swim Through

by Sherri Owens

Shark tattoos can have many and contrasting meanings. The meaning behind shark tattoos can range from protection and guardianship all the way to domination and fear.

When I lived in Hawaii, I found myself having to design a lot of shark tattoos. When I asked the locals why shark tattoos was so popular, they informed me about shark symbolism. This was the kickstart I need to learn about what the shark meant to other cultures as well.

In this post I will detail the shark tattoo meaning, particularly in Polynesian cultures and show you a variety of shark tattoos to choose from. Let's begin.

What is the Shark Tattoo Meaning?

Now, in most countries, sharks are considered dangerous creatures and tend to have a rather negative light cast on them as well as shark tattoos.

However, this isn't the case with all cultures - in Polynesian cultures sharks are actually revered. In these different cultures sharks and shark tattoos take on the form of Gods and protectors.

So:

What Do Shark Tattoos Symbolize in Polynesian Culture?

Well, it is important to remember that Polynesian culture is made up of many cultures - you have Hawaii, Cook Islands, New Zealand, Fiji, and Papua New Guinea. While there are similarities among the stories, they each have their own take.

Another thing to bear in mind is that these cultures are protective of a lot of their stories and legends. They believe that these should not be shared with everyone. Due to this, we only understand certain elements of the stories related to sharks and shark tattoos.

This is something to consider if you want your shark tattoo meaning to be linked to any of these cultures.

In Hawaii, the people see the sharks and shark tattoos as being family guardians. This is because their people believe that when their family members die, their souls get turned into sharks. In turn, these shark ancestors protect their own.

The sharks were also considered providers as they were used as a food source. However, the people of Hawaii were careful and made sure to use part of the shark's body - from the teeth to the skin so that nothing went to waste. Therefore, shark tattoos are also related to sustainability, particularly when it comes to the ocean.

The Maori also consider sharks an important part of their diet and culture. As with the Hawaiians, they ensure that there is no waste once they incredible creature is captured.

In fact, the Maori respect the prowess of the shark and they believe the shark represents the ultimate warrior spirit, as do shark tattoos. As such, they hope to fight like sharks every time that they go into battle.

Sharks and shark tattoos are also considered guardians of the sea. There have been many tales about how sharks have guided lost sailors to their destination. There are also stories about how sharks have protected sailors from other predators, making shark tattoos symbols of protection.

What Does the Hammerhead Shark Represent?

Now, hammerheads aren't commonly found among Polynesian countries. Due to that, the sighting of this kind of shark is rather rare. And, when people do see they them, they believe them to be a sign from the Gods.

So, a hammerhead shark tattoo could be a symbol of something wonderful or miraculous that happened in your life. The hammerhead shark tattoo could also be a wish for something truly magical to take place in your life.

Interestingly enough, of the shark species, the hammerhead sharks are one of the more docile fish. While they have been reports of them attacking people, these are quite rare. So, if you want shark tattoos with a gentler approach, these may be the sharks for you.

What Do Sharks Represent in Other Cultures?

Most people see sharks as the ultimate apex predator. This is why shark tattoos associated with them are considered intimidating.

It is one of those creatures that can essentially take on any other creature that they encounter. Man eating sharks will even devour humans.

Due to this, one of the preferred shark tattoo meaning is about the fierceness of sharks and domination. People may get a shark tattoo because they see such characteristics in themselves or they hope to build up these traits in themselves.

People will also use the term shark to define people who are ruthless and will do what is necessary to come out on top, viewing other people as prey. So, if you want to be the very best at something in your professional or personal life, then a shark tattoo can be a good reminder of how you need to act.

Now, there are many sharks who have to keep swimming and moving if they want to live. If they stop, they die. This is another popular shark tattoo meaning. It acts as a reminder to people to work hard and keep moving forward and that this is the only way to accomplish your goal.

The Top Shark Tattoo Designs

Here are the shark tattoos that you can consider for yourself:

Minimalistic Shark Tattoos

Just because you want your shark tattoo to have a symbolic meaning doesn't mean that you want to go overboard with your ink. Sometimes, you want to keep things simple - well, this is where the minimalistic shark tattoo design comes in.

The thing about sharks is that they are instantly recognizable due to their specific shape and their dorsal fin. Therefore, even an outline of a shark will be enough to identify it as a shark tattoo.

Here are some of the shark tattoos that you can consider for a minimalistic yet perfect tattoo!

Simple Line Shark Tattoo

Image by @ali_knz_ via Instagram

Tiny Shark Tattoo on the Tummy

Image by @bttattoobangkokthailand via Instagram

Simple Shark Tattoo Piece

Image by @puertotattoostudio via Instagram

Small Shark Tattoo on the Hand

Image by @diego_art28 via Instagram

Open Mouth Shark Tattoo

Image by @clikkie via Instagram

Geometric Shark Tattoo

Image by @inkcorporetattoo via Instagram

Black and Grey Shark Tattoo on Foot

Image by @sheronbermudez via Instagram

Wide Mouth Shark Chest Tattoo

Image by @thezonetattoo via Instagram

Greyscale Shark Forearm Tattoo

Image by @stevens_tattoos via Instagram

Simple Dotted Shark Tattoo

Image by @kousai.tattoo.studio via Instagram

Sketch Style Shark Tattoo on Leg

Image by @jimmyhaydentattoo via Instagram

Black Dot Work Shark Tattoo

Image by @tattoo13insoho via Instagram

Tiny Dotted Shark Ribs Tattoo

Image by @em.isabella__ink via Instagram

Geometric Shark Tattoo on Ribs

Image by @kelseykansas via Instagram

Baby Shark Tattoos

With most shark tattoos, sharks are represented as being predators. However, if you appreciate marine life, then these creatures can be quite beautiful. In fact, they can be downright cute sometimes. If this is how you feel, then a baby shark tattoo is just the right ink for you to get.

This is also an excellent shark tattoo to get if you want to take the sting out of the shark. In many cultures, the shark is viewed as a scary creature. However, if you want to take the fear factor out of sharks and your shark tattoo, then adorable shark tattoos are the way to go.

Here are the shark tattoo designs to consider if this is an idea that you like:

Baby Shark Memorial Tattoo

Image by @kalegall via Instagram

Grey Baby Shark Arm Tattoo

Image by @giada_tempo via Instagram

Hammerhead Bay Shark Tattoo

Image by @cattibalholocaust via Instagram

Yellow Baby Shark Tattoo

Image by @tommy.sturgis via Instagram

Cute Baby Shark Tattoo on Hand

Image by @valkyria_tatuajes_ via Instagram

Baby Shark Fin Tattoo Piece

Image by @ryanbyrdart via Instagram

Colorful Bunch of Baby Shark Tattoo

Image by @kabukitattoostudio via Instagram

Twin Baby Sharks Tattoo

Image by @taigatattoo55 via Instagram

Baby Shark with Toys Tattoo

Image by @joelar_eclipse via Instagram

Small Swimming Baby Shark Tattoo

Image by @nandosato via Instagram

Purple Baby Shark Tattoo

Image by @olly_tattoo via Instagram

Black Line Baby Shark Tattoo

Image by @hdc1tattoos_an_designs via Instagram

Three Baby Sharks with Diapers Tattoo Art

Image by @alicelin0923 via Instagram

Gangster Baby Shark Tattoo

Image by @twistedchapel via Instagram

Great White Shark Tattoos

Some of the most common meanings behind the shark is that it is the king of the ocean. It is an unbeatable predator and something to be in awe of.

If this is what you want your shark tattoo meaning to be as well, then you have to get a great white shark tattoo. This is because there is no shark or fish in the sea that is quite as brutal as the great white with its sharp teeth and powerful body.

This doesn't have to be the only meaning behind great white tattoos, though. These shark tattoos can be a symbol of protection, if you want. It can be comforting to imagine that such a strong and powerful fish is watching over you. This can be especially true if you tend to be on the shy or quiet side.

White Shade Shark Tattoo

Image by @sonjaelise_ via Instagram

White Shark Leg Tattoo

Image by @highnowheretattoo via Instagram

Stabbed White Shark Tattoo

Image by @goodfortunestudio via Instagram

Black and White Shark Attack Forearm Tattoo

Image by @dallincole_aj via Instagram

Shark Water Hunt Tattoo Piece

Image by @tomtilden via Instagram

Marine Theme Sleeve Tattoo Piece

Image by @guerillaartsociety via Instagram

Shark Portrait Inner Bicep Tattoo

Image by @joseph_barrios_tattoo via Instagram

Underwater White Shark Tattoo

Image by @cotattoo via Instagram

Shark and Octopus Combined Tattoo

Image by @milanshugic_tattoo via Instagram

Three Sharks Underwater Tattoo Art

Image by @bustattoo via Instagram

Tattoo of a Great White Shark on Attack

Image by @gravebloomtattoo via Instagram

Little Great White Shark Tattoo

Image by @bobbytrefztattoo via Instagram

Shark Jaw Piece Tattoo

Image by @labrenzink via Instagram

Great White Shark Face Tattoo

Image by @ralphnaveatattoo via Instagram

Hammerhead Shark Tattoos

This kind of shark tattoo is a great option if you want a shark tattoo but would like something a bit more unique at the same time.

There is also the fact that with these kinds of shark tattoos, the meaning can be quite different. Now, as I explained above, hammerhead sharks can be rather calm creatures. So, if you prefer a shark tattoo with a more gentle meaning, then this is the ideal one to get.

The hammerhead shark tattoo design can also be considered a good omen - a sign of good fortune or even a miracle.

If this idea interests you, here are the shark tattoos that you can consider getting for yourself:

Black and Grey Hammerhead Forearm Tattoo

Image by @ruddydesign via Instagram

Traditional Style Hammerhead Shark Tattoo

Image by @terrystattoostudio via Instagram

Greyscale Hammerhead Shark Tattoo Piece

Image by @mumble_tats via Instagram

Hammerhead Shark Tattoo with Water Splash

Image by @marcelwittwertattoo via Instagram

Tropical Hammerhead Shark Tattoo

Image by @tropistyletattoos via Instagram

Colorful Hammerhead Shark Tattoo

Image by @gabymariatattoo via Instagram

Huge Greyish Hammerhead Shark Tattoo

Image by @valeriesachitattoos via Instagram

Hammerhead Shark and Red Circle Arm Tattoo

Image by @ryhno via Instagram

Hammerhead Shark Shadow Tattoo

Image by @joe_steyn_tattoos via Instagram

Hammerhead Line Work Forearm Tattoo

Image by @limitless_ink_tattoo via Instagram

Injured Green Shade Hammerhead Shark Tattoo

Image by @dtctattoos and redloontattoo via Instagram

Hammerhead Shark Tattoo on Hands

Image by @sickcrayons via Instagram

Underwater Hammerhead Shark Tattoo

Image by @oakandacorntattoos via Instagram

Small Hammerhead Shark Tattoo on Ribs

Image by @etinkstudiosdelemont via Instagram

Tiger Shark Tattoos

A tiger shark tattoo is actually quite meaningful. This is because in places like Hawaii, tiger sharks are more likely to be considered guardians of a family and to contain an ancestor's spirit.

So, if you feel like you are in guidance or protection, then these are the types of shark tattoos to get.

Now, that being said, it is worthwhile to know that tiger sharks are one of the most aggressive sharks out there. They have been known to attack without provocation. Also, because they tend to swim in shallow waters, they are much more likely to encounter humans.

Therefore, if you are looking for shark tattoos with a bit more edge to it, then this is an option for you.

Here are the shark tattoos that may inspire your own:

Tiger Shark Forearm Tattoo

Image by @mitten_made_tattoos via Instagram

Greyscale Tiger Shark Tattoo

Image by @kaha_kii via Instagram

Mother and Baby Tiger Shark Tattoo

Image by @saramonster315 via Instagram

Black Tiger Shark Tattoo

Image by @jawjawinks via Instagram

Grey Tiger Shark Forearm Tattoo

Image by @sonjaelise_ via Instagram

Black and Grey Tiger Shark Rib Tattoo

Image by @c.campillo__ via Instagram

Gnarly Tiger Shark Tattoo

Image by @alteredskintattoos via Instagram

A Tiger Shark and Remoras Tattoo

Image by @inkbymik via Instagram

Blue Shade Tiger Shark Tattoo

Image by @atlasandanchortattoo via Instagram

Tiger Shark Skin Tip Tattoo

Image by @ashleyhensontattoo via Instagram

Watercolored Tiger Shark Tattoo

Image by @nachocrazygringo via Instagram

Black and Grey Tiger Shark Tattoo

Image by @tattooerjesse via Instagram

Blue Tiger Shark Chest Tattoo

Image by @feelgoodinkk via Instagram

Tiger Shark Tattoo on Ribs

Image by @embassytattoo via Instagram

Tribal Shark Tattoos

Getting tribal shark tattoos makes a lot of sense. This is because most tribal tattoos are linked to Polynesian cultures. Also, sharks are especially important to those of Polynesian descent.

The thing about these types of shark tattoos, though, is that they are quite complex. And, while the pattern of these shark tattoos may look random, this is rarely the case.

This is why it is important to do as much research as possible if you want to get a tribal shark tattoo. Carefully look at the patterns used on other shark tattoos and read up on what various patterns may mean to different cultures. It is the only way to give your shark tattoo its due respect.

It is also due to this that you should consider using a tattoo artist who has experience with tribal designs. Using a tattoo artist who knows what they are doing ensures that your shark tattoo looks more authentic as well.

Here are some of the shark tattoos that can point you in the right direction:

Tribal Hammerhead Shark Tattoo

Image by @tattoo2ney via Instagram

Black Tribal Shark Tattoo

Image by @shinobi_ink_ via Instagram

Black and Grey Tribal Shark Tattoo

Image by @chrisbrusbytattoo via Instagram

Black Tribal Shark and Shadow Tattoo

Image by @kchorapinta via Instagram

Bold Ink Tribal Shark Tattoo

Image by @sawyer_does_art via Instagram

Black and Grey Detailed Tribal Tattoo

Image by @desmond_tattoos via Instagram

Blue Polynesian Style Tattoo

Image by @ladylucktattoohawaii via Instagram

Dark Bold Ink Shark Tattoo

Image by @mauivagabondtattoo via Instagram

Clean Black Tribal Shark Tattoo

Image by @solvej_ink via Instagram

Tribal Shark Tattoo on the Back

Image by @twinsunstattoos via Instagram

Tribal Hammerhead Shark Forearm Tattoo

Image by @studio85tattoo via Instagram

Polynesian Tribal Style Shark Tattoo

Image by @renytattoos via Instagram

Polynesian Shark Forearm Tattoo

Image by @thubbink via Instagram

Black and Grey Tribal Hammerhead Shark Tattoo

Image by @bossfrogtattoo via Instagram

Traditional Shark Tattoos

It is important to not get confused between tribal and traditional shark tattoos. The tribal shark tattoo is based off Polynesian cultures. Traditional shark tattoos, on the other hand, is based on a traditional tattoo style.

This is a rather classic style with bold colors and thick black lines used for the shark tattoos. If this is the style that you want to go with, then you will find that your shark tattoos can also include flowers, anchors, rope, etc.

Here are some of the shark tattoos to look through for your own shark tattoo ideas:

Colorful Traditional Shark Tattoo

Image by @adamfortunetattoos via Instagram

Stabbed Shark Traditional Tattoo Art

Image by @tattooelgatonegro via Instagram

Black and Grey Drowning Shark Tattoo

Image by @topi_opastattoo via Instagram

Tradish Shark and Arrow Tattoo

Image by @sailor_tony_tattoos via Instagram

Tattoo of a Grey Shark Stabbed with an Arrow

Image by @niamhtattoo via Instagram

Red Teeth Traditional Shark Tattoo

Image by @lennytatoueuse via Instagram

Shark and Diver Tattoo Design

Image by @aaroneugene via Instagram

Sharkie Balboa Tattoo Piece

Image by @vintagekarmatattoos via Instagram

Shark and Water Drops Tattoo Piece

Image by @molehewitttattoo via Instagram

Black and Red Shark Tattoo

Image by @sketi__ via Instagram

Green Hammerhead Shark Traditional Tattoo

Image by @myke.tattooer via Instagram

Multicolored Traditional Shark Tattoo

Image by @liamwilkinson.tattooer via Instagram

Shark and Diver Battle Tattoo

Image by @melissa_daye via Instagram

Shark and Animals Tattoo Art

Image by @kirk_fgn via Instagram

Bleeding Shark Tattoo Art

Image by @mattweaverrr via Instagram

Hammerhead Shark with Flowers Tattoo Piece

Image by @_val_sloan via Instagram

You might be quite stunned to learn how the meaning behind shark tattoos can vary quite so much. Now that you are aware of all the symbolism associated with shark tattoos, you will know precisely which shark tattoo will suit you best.

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