Mermaid tattoos are a popular tattoo design choice among those who are drawn to the beauty, mystery and mythology of mermaids and the ocean.
Mermaid mythology spans many cultures and there are some interesting interpretations of our relationships with these nautical creatures. In this guide, we dig into these fascinating myths to explain the symbolism of mermaid tattoos. We also showcase some of our favorite mermaid tattoo examples.
The History of Mermaid Mythology
The mythology of mermaids varies across different cultures and times, but generally, mermaids are portrayed as mythical creatures of the sea that are half-human and half-fish. They are usually described as being beautiful women with long hair, fishtails, and scales on their lower bodies. In many myths, mermaids are said to be seductive and alluring, using their beauty to lure sailors to their deaths.
One of the earliest known references to mermaids comes from ancient Assyrian mythology, where they were depicted as goddesses associated with fertility and the sea. In Greek mythology, the mermaid was known as a “siren,” and they were said to sing enchanting songs that lured sailors to their deaths on rocky shores. In Norse mythology, mermaids were called “merrows” or “mermaids,” and they were said to be the protectors of the sea and its creatures.
In some cultures, mermaids were seen as benevolent and helpful creatures. In Scottish folklore, for example, mermaids were said to grant wishes to those who caught them, and in Irish mythology, mermaids were believed to possess healing powers.
The idea of mermaids has also been popularized in modern media, such as Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” and the book series “Percy Jackson and the Olympians.” Today, mermaids are often associated with beauty, magic, and the mysteries of the sea.
The Symbolism of Mermaid Tattoos
Mermaid tattoos can hold a variety of meanings, as they are a symbol of both the beauty and the mystery of the sea. Here are some of the common symbolic meanings associated with mermaid tattoos:
- Femininity and Beauty: Mermaids are often associated with beauty, grace, and feminine energy. As such, a mermaid tattoo may be seen as a celebration of femininity and a reminder to embrace one’s own beauty and unique qualities.
- Freedom and Independence: Mermaids are often depicted as free-spirited and independent creatures, swimming freely in the sea. For some people, a mermaid tattoo may symbolize the desire for freedom and independence in their own lives.
- Love for the Ocean: For those who feel a deep connection to the ocean, a mermaid tattoo can be a way to express their love and appreciation for the sea and all of its wonders.
- Seduction and Temptation: In some myths, mermaids were said to use their beauty to lure sailors to their deaths. A mermaid tattoo may represent the seductive power of beauty and the temptation that can lead to danger.
- Transformation and Change: The mermaid’s hybrid nature, being both human and fish, can symbolize transformation and change. A mermaid tattoo may be a reminder of the importance of adapting to change and embracing one’s own unique transformation.
Ultimately, the symbolism of a mermaid tattoo will vary depending on the individual who chooses to get it. It may hold personal significance related to their own experiences, beliefs, or aspirations.
Typical Mermaid Tattoo Styles
Mermaid tattoos can be created in a variety of styles, each with its own unique look and feel. Here are some of the typical styles of mermaid tattoos that are popular:
Traditional Mermaid Tattoos
Traditional mermaid tattoos are inspired by classic tattoo art styles and often feature bold lines and bright colors. These tattoos may include elements such as anchors, ship wheels, and other nautical motifs.
Realistic Mermaid Tattoos
Realistic tattoos are highly detailed and often feature intricate shading and a lifelike appearance. These tattoos may be inspired by photographs or other realistic depictions of mermaids.
Watercolor Mermaid Tattoo
Watercolor tattoos are created using a technique that mimics the appearance of watercolor paintings. These tattoos often feature soft, flowing lines and a dreamy, ethereal quality.
Neo-Traditional Mermaid Tattoo
Neo-traditional tattoos blend elements of traditional tattoo art with more contemporary styles. These tattoos often feature bold lines, bright colors, and a mix of traditional and modern imagery.
Related: For more mythical women that make for great tattoos don’t miss our guide to medusa tattoos next.
Blackwork Mermaid Tattoo
Blackwork mermaid tattoos are created using only black ink and often feature intricate, detailed designs. These tattoos may include elements such as mandalas, geometric shapes, and other intricate patterns. I think you’ll agree the black mermaid tattoo below is just amazing!
Minimalist Mermaid Tattoos
Minimalist tattoos are created using simple, clean lines and a minimal color palette. These tattoos may feature only the mermaid’s silhouette or other minimalist design elements.
Awesome Mermaid Tattoo Ideas
If you like what you’ve seen you’ll love what’s coming next! keep reading for more amazing mermaid tattoo ideas.
Goddess Mermaid Tattoos
Goddess mermaid tattoos create a powerful symbol of divine feminine energy. A goddess tattoo can be a powerful reminder of the beauty, strength, and grace of the feminine spirit.
Mermaid Tail Tattoos
The tail of a mermaid tattoo often contains the most intricate part of the design. The scales can be tiny and often have the effect of being shiny or even wet. Making the tail standout is down to the skill and patience of the tattoo artist.
Little Mermaid Tattoos
We’ve all seen the Little Mermaid movie or at least recognize Ariel the main character. For some, it’s a fond childhood memory and a reminder of great times.
Outline Mermaid Tattoo
Some of the best mermaid designs are just outlines without color or intense detail. The example below is one of my favorites. It’s a really beautiful tattoo done in an anime style of artwork.
Mermaid Scales Tattoo
The scales can be a really difficult component to do well. They usually incorporate complicated lighting effects that require delicate shading.
Skeleton Mermaid Tattoo
Skeleton mermaid tattoos are not all that common in my experience but they tend to be really cool when you see them. These two examples are just amazing!
Small Mermaid Tattoo
Tattoos don’t need to be big to make an impact and often the smaller ones are more memorable. This small mermaid tattoo a really cool example.
Pin Up Mermaid Tattoo
Pin-up girl tattoos are always popular and it’s a style I really like. It works really well with mermaids as you can see below.
Sailor Jerry Mermaid Tattoo
Sometimes called the traditional tattoo style, the sailor jerry style works well with a mermaid as the subject.
Mermaid Sleeve Tattoo
Full mermaid sleeves are relatively rare but they’re always memorable.