Elephant tattoos have strong meanings because the elephant is an incredible animal.
Traversing rough terrain in search of food and water, elephants persevere through challenges.
Elephant tattoo designs can go two ways– an African elephant, which usually is larger with bigger ears, or an Asian elephant.
No matter which design you choose for your elephant tattoo, it symbolizes strength, wisdom, and power.
Elephant Trunk Up Tattoo Meaning
Elephant tattoos with their trunk up come from ancient Chinese beliefs representing good luck.
In fact, elephants tend to represent highly good luck in general in Chinese culture so they are an excellent choice if you want to turn your life around (if you believe that’s the cure).
Biologically, when an elephant has its trunk up it means that it could be rearing up to charge you.
Therefore, an elephant trunk-up tattoo could also mean that you are a fierce individual who is rugged in all the right ways.
Elephant Trunk Down Tattoo Meaning
On the other hand, when the elephant in a tattoo has its trunk down in Chinese culture this represents fertility.
It is also believed that when the trunk is down it is storing energy and strength to face an upcoming obstacle.
An elephant tattoo with its trunk down means you have immense power locked up inside of you that you can release whenever you need it most.
Elephant and Moon Tattoo Meaning
The design of the elephant and moon tattoo could be that the elephant is sitting inside of a crescent moon, or the elephant is carrying the moon with its trunk, just to name a few tattoo designs.
The moon as a tattoo can mean many things, including the passage of time, growth, and creativity.
When the elephant is combined with a moon tattoo, it means that this tattoo implies that you have great intelligence and gain more knowledge as you grow and as time passes.
Hamsa Elephant Tattoo Meaning
The Hamsa symbol has been claimed by multiple religions and cultures throughout time.
This tattoo design usually places the elephant inside of the Hamsa tattoo symbol, combining the two in an interesting composition.
The Hamsa’s meaning brings out the elephant’s confidence and bravery as whoever wears the tattoo faces challenges.
Most notably the Hamsa tattoo represents protection, therefore, the elephant inside the Hamsa is the symbol of an elephant that can battle as well as heal.
Hamsa with an elephant tattoo offers a safe guide through life, proving that with bravery you can overcome obstacles.
Elephant Family Tattoo Meaning
This kind of elephant tattoo is serene and loving– it is all about family.
The elephants in a row show how a mother leads children through their lives by protecting them and giving them strength.
The mother elephant also teaches the younger ones who, again, following in her footsteps.
This is a great tattoo for a proud mother who wants to express her sentiment for family life, or for a child of a mother who always leads them in the right direction.
Elephant Mom and Baby Tattoo Meaning
Much like the elephant family tattoo, this design signifies the bond between mother and child.
However, this specific tattoo design really captures the close bond between a mother and her child and emphasizes the link between them.
Mother elephants are highly protective over their youth and stay close to them until they are adults.
Many human mothers feel that way about their sons or daughters.
Elephant Mom and Baby tattoo is meant for someone who cherishes that family bond and wants to honor it and take it with them wherever they go.
Elephant with Lotus Flower Tattoo Meaning
A lotus flower tattoo can mean many things, including purity, rebirth, enlightenment, faith, and strength.
Many of these meanings relate to the symbolism of the elephant, which in this case is an Asian elephant.
This combination tattoo as a result can mean strength in your faith, especially in Buddhism.
It can also mean that you have great wisdom and consider yourself enlightened.
Elephant and Butterfly Tattoo Meaning
This tattoo design transforms an elephant into a monarch or any other colorful butterfly within its body or by simply giving it wings.
The elephant and butterfly tattoo symbolizes joy and strength in happiness.
It takes a lot of willpower to be happy, especially during rough times.
This tattoo represents pushing through the pain and realizing there is hope and laughter in life, as well as peace and joy.
Only then will you become more wise and enlightened.
Elephant and Octopus Tattoo Meaning
If you are looking for a tattoo that symbolizes intelligence, an elephant tattoo with an octopus tattoo is the way to go!
Both elephants and octopus tattoos are symbols of being smart but in a creative way.
This tattoo isn’t for someone who is book smart— it’s for someone who has creative intelligence and who flies by the seat of their pants when making decisions.
Elephant and Lion Tattoo Meaning
Combining the two faces of an elephant and a lion tattoo is a complicated design, but one worth your while.
These two dynamic and powerful animals represent in this tattoo design amazing strength and durability.
A lion is a fierce creature, while an elephant has quiet strength.
This duality makes for a heavy and powerful tattoo that is meant for someone who has endured great challenges and came out on the other side as a winner.
Elephant with Heart Tattoo Meaning
There are many creative ways to design an elephant with a heart tattoo, including making the shape of the elephant’s body into a heart by using its limbs or trunk.
Sometimes, two elephants face each other with their trunks holding a heart.
This symbolism means that your love for someone or yourself is strong and you have a bond that cannot be broken.
Elephant with Balloon Tattoo Meaning
There is an interesting contrast between a heavy elephant and a light and airy balloon in this tattoo design.
The meaning of this tattoo design is even when your feeling heavy you can be lifted high into the air by almost magical power.
Even when the going gets rough, there will always be something incredible to lift you up.
Ganesha Tattoo Meaning
Ganesha, or Ganesh, is the Hindu God who has the head of an elephant and the body of a human.
This special God makes for a very special tattoo because Ganesha is one of the most highly worshipped Gods in Hinduism.
The meaning of this tattoo is intelligence, wisdom, and having big ideas because of his massive head.
The Ganesha tattoo is meant for someone who uses their intellect to create amazing ideas that impress everyone with their skill.
Japanese Elephant Tattoo Meaning
The Japanese elephant, also called Baku, is an eye-catching Japanese tattoo motif.
The Baku, often depicted with a strange smile on its face, is believed to devour the bad thoughts plaguing us
Japanese elephant tattoos have become popular because of the creature’s significance as well as their beautiful imagery — this striking mythological animal makes for an excellent tattoo that serves a powerful purpose.
A creature made of multiple animals, the Baku is known as a protector from fatal diseases, so this tattoo could be a preventative measure against illness.
The Baku tattoo is also known to prevent bad dreams and literally eat your nightmares— but if you’re not careful, it could eat your dreams as well.
It’s a risk that some, who dare, may take!
Rose Clock Elephant Tattoo Meaning
This combination of symbols may make your head spin when trying to figure out its meaning.
Elephant tattoos as we know tend to represent intelligence, but no matter how wise someone is time runs all of our lives.
But along with time comes love, which is where the rose tattoo comes into play.
We must be smart with the time that we have but always keep in mind that love is the answer to all of our questions.
Main Themes in Elephant Tattoos
One elephant tattoo isn’t nearly the same as another!
There are many variations and themes to elephant tattoos, so many that we tried to cover as many as possible.
Keep in mind that the main theme in elephant tattoo meanings is intelligence, but there is so much more.
Let’s take a look at some of the main themes in elephant tattoos.
Matching Elephant Tattoos
If you’re thinking about getting matching elephant tattoos, think about what you two have in common.
If you feel a lot of compassion towards each other and value empathy in general, then elephants may be the perfect matching tattoo for best friends who love each other unconditionally, or any other type of relationship.
Elephant Tattoos for Mother & Daughter
Elephant tattoos are a great choice for a mother-daughter tattoo because a mother shares her wisdom with her daughter throughout her life.
The elephant is a symbol of wisdom and overcoming obstacles.
These are two things that mother and daughter share.
This is a wonderful memory to have together!
Baby Elephant Tattoos
Baby elephant tattoos are not only cute but meaningful as well.
A young elephant has not yet learned anything about the world but will grow up to become a wonderful being.
We all are young elephants, in a way, because we each start fresh and learn about the world through experiences.
A baby elephant tattoo symbolizes growth and learning through life (plus, it’s really cute).
Elephant Head Tattoos
There’s something about an elephant’s head we seem to love as part of art, logos, and of course the popular elephant head tattoo.
In African culture, an elephant head tattoo symbolizes wisdom, strength, and good luck.
In Buddhism, an elephant head tattoo could be a symbol of the slow and steady path to enlightenment.
Overall, an elephant head tattoo can be considered a symbol of good luck, prosperity, wisdom, and protection.
If you appreciate elephants for their sweet dispositions and intelligence, reflect that with a fun floral tattoo motif.
We love the mix of shape and texture in these pieces- the grandiose feeling of an elephant, mixed with the delicate beauty of a fragile bloom.
Angry Elephant Tattoos
An angry elephant tattoo symbolizes the power of the elephant and its dark side.
Elephants when angry can become vicious and will protect their children or whatever is important to them.
If you want your tattoo to symbolize that you are a powerful person who can protect yourself from anyone and anything then this is a great tattoo for you.
Cute Elephant Tattoos
Many people find elephants absolutely adorable, myself included.
This tattoo is more for the aesthetic value of the elephant because of its beautiful nature.
Many cute elephant tattoos have the elephant dressed up with gems and crowns to add to its beauty.
A cute elephant tattoo is a great addition to anyone’s collection of tattoos on their body, meaning you love pretty things and to be decorated with fine objects, and in this case, tattoos.
Elephant with Flower Tattoos
This tattoo is another aesthetic-based tattoo that has an elephant decorated with flowers on its head or adorned with flowers surrounding its head or body.
The flowers bring out the kindness of the elephant and its ultimate beauty as an amazing creature.
The meaning of an elephant with a flower tattoo is good luck and prosperous life.
Elephant Tattoo Styles
Elephant tattoos can be done in multiple styles, each affecting the meaning of the tattoo.
Elephant tattoos can be very minimal and bare-bones if that’s the style you prefer, or they can even be done in an American traditional style.
There are a few more styles we’ll discuss here, so take a look and pick out your favorite one!
Minimalist Elephant Tattoos
Minimalist elephant tattoos tend to be very small, like a wrist tattoo or on the ankle.
They aren’t filled in, instead, are simple lines made to form the outline of the elephant.
This very modern style of tattoo means that you tend to lean on the creative side.
You are highly intelligent on the right side of your brain.
One Line Elephant Tattoos
In a one-line tattoo, your artist has to portray an elephant with only one continuous line.
These tattoos are fascinating to look at, partially because you don’t often see this much negative space in a tattoo.
It’s a simple tattoo design, but unforgettable.
Realistic Elephant Tattoos
If you’re receiving a realistic elephant tattoo, that probably means you not only like the meaning that elephants bring to the table but also the look of them.
In fact, they are beautiful creatures!
A realistic tattoo means that you have developed a sense of courage and a deep passion for people with greater intelligence.
American Traditional Elephant Tattoos
This subject matter for American traditional tattoos is usually included with feathers, jewels, and rings attached to the tusks.
Sometimes, the trunk is even turned into a giant snake.
Whatever the composition, the American traditional elephant tattoo emphasizes the traditional elements of the elephant tattoo meaning such as bravery, intelligence, and perseverance.
Geometric Elephant Tattoos
These highly ornate elephants are a modern take on the traditional elephant tattoo and are a cool way to celebrate just a special animal.
The geometric tattoo pattern associated with the elephant’s composition implies that its wearer has a high IQ which tends to fall more in the category of math and sciences.
The type of person who gets a geometric elephant tattoo, however, could also be artistic with a mind of shapes.
Geometric tattoos play with symmetrical shapes and lines that, together, create one large image.
Most tattoo designs are compatible with a geometric approach, so you can combine techniques to create something completely new.
We’ve seen a lot of geometric watercolor mash-ups, which are so visually interesting because of the dichotomy between rigid lines and flowing color fills.
Breaking it down into its basic components a geometric elephant tattoo makes for a really neat effect.
It’s an original tattoo design that you won’t see too often.
Watercolor Elephant Tattoos
Watercolor tattoos are splashy and creative.
The style is a wonderful choice for animal tattoos because the designs embody a feeling of movement.
There’s something celebratory in a watercolor tattoo.
Even if it’s not the most realistic portrayal, it captures the majesty of well-loved creatures.
A watercolor elephant tattoo is sure to stand out from the herd.
Black-work Elephant Tattoos
Black-work tattoos have a high visual impact.
They’re extremely satisfying to the eye because of their use of contrast.
A black-work elephant tattoo will feature a creative interplay between negative space and sections of dark, saturated black.
It’s a powerful look for a powerful animal.
There’s a lot of versatility within this tattoo style, so your artist can create something truly unique.
Illustrative Elephant Tattoos
Illustrative tattoos have a smooth, painterly effect.
They can be beautiful and ethereal, or a little more light-hearted.
If you want a cool and artistic tattoo, there’s a lot of versatility within this style.
The main calling card of an illustrative elephant tattoo will be that it looks drawn or painted.
These tattoos are not meant to be 2D like American Traditional tattoo designs, but they also shouldn’t look photorealistic.
They’re a perfect tattoo choice for someone with an artsy streak.
Dot-work Elephant Tattoos
Dot-work, also known as a stippling or pointillism effect, is a clever choice for an animal with so much texture.
A dot-work elephant tattoo is artistic and somewhat abstract, but it reflects the essence of the creature.
In a dot-work tattoo design, thousands of dots join together to create an image, rather than long lines or color fills.
This is an interesting approach to depth and shading and is incredibly pleasing to the eye.
Neo-traditional Elephant Tattoos
A combination of American Traditional, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, and Japanese woodblock prints, there’s a lot to love about Neo-traditional tattoos.
Neo-traditional animal portraits are very popular on the tattoo scene because they’re expressive and fun, usually somewhat realistic with whimsical fantasy additions.
We love the Neo-traditional style for elephant tattoos because they can be everything an elephant is: playful and cute but also regal and enchanting.
Single Needle Elephant Tattoos
Single needle tattoos can be light and airy, and some tattoo artists are skilled enough to create light and shading with one needle only.
They will always have a feathery, pencil-light quality because they are executed with a thin tattoo needle.
Most tattoos are done with a variety of lines and shaders, each a bundle of a specific type of needle.
These tattoos are done with a single needle, so they resemble sketches.
A single needle elephant tattoo is a nice choice for someone who likes visual impact and wants an interesting piece, but doesn’t want to be too flashy about it.
Graphic Elephant Tattoos
One of the hottest tattoo techniques, as mentioned above, is to combine harsh symmetrical lines with the softer, more organic subject matter.
This is one of the many techniques you may see in a graphic tattoo.
Graphic tattoos combine several art styles to create one stunning piece.
Sketchy Elephant Tattoos
Have you ever looked at a sketch for something and admired its “rough around the edges” quality?
You aren’t alone, because this sketch-book style is becoming a popular look on the tattoo scene.
Sketchy tattoos feel vibrant and artistic the way a watercolor tattoo does, but they usually play it a little safer with color.
They look ripped from the pages of a sketchbook, hence the name.
If you aren’t a fan of the traditional bold lines in classic tattoos, this is a fun and contemporary direction to go in.
Etching Elephant Tattoos
Etching tattoos are meant to resemble wood carvings.
This style is a unique, graphic approach to tattooing.
An etching elephant tattoo is going to be a striking one.
It’s similar to the sketchy tattoo style, but with a more solid, 3D effect.
Etching tattoos will capture the raw power of an elephant.
If you admire this animal for its sheer magnitude, consider a bold etching design.
Contemporary Elephant Tattoos
“Contemporary” is a term that encompasses any fresh and innovative techniques in the world of tattoo.
Elephant tattoos are instantly recognizable, even if you get a little more abstract with your execution.
Contemporary tattoos are an exciting way to make sure your elephant tattoo is unlike any other.
Elephant Tattoo Ideas
Thinking of getting an elephant tattoo?
The possibilities are endless.
Narrow it down with some ideas from our tattoo gallery!
- Simple Elephant Head Tattoos
Because of their recognizable silhouette, elephant head tattoos can be as simple or as detailed as you like.
We love these simple designs for someone who wants some ink but doesn’t want to look like a coloring book. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that if you do!)
- Small Elephant Head Tattoos
You don’t have to go life-size on your elephant head tattoo.
Sometimes a small tattoo design has so much visual appeal because it doesn’t draw the eye all over the place, and it can fit on any part of your body you choose.
Good things can come in small trunks.
- Large Elephant Tattoos
The larger a tattoo design is, the more fun you and your artist can have with details and custom additions.
Elephants are the largest living land mammal, so you’ll never go too big with a large elephant tattoo design.
- Ornamental Elephant Head Tattoos
The ornamental tattoo design is very compatible with elephant tattoos because it’s a highly decorative style.
When the two come together, it’s reminiscent of the painted elephants in Asian countries.
If you have some tie to Indian culture, this can be a wonderful and original tribute to your heritage.
In an ornamental elephant tattoo, every last detail is adorned with beautiful details and decorations.
When done by a skilled hand, it’s breathtaking rather than gaudy or overwhelming.
Perfect for someone who loves to live life out loud, who isn’t afraid to be bold.
- Black & Grey Elephant Tattoos
Black and grey is a versatile design.
In this genre, tattoos can be closer to portraiture, stylized, or some combination of techniques.
The thing that defines a black and grey tattoo is that it’s done with “washes” of black ink, diluted to different shades of grey, then layered to create depth and dimension.
Black and grey may be the perfect tattoo idea to bring out an elephant’s signature crinkles and wrinkles in a realistic way.
But there’s plenty of fun to be had with other tattoo designs as well.
As we all know, body placement is crucial.
If you want an elephant tattoo on your head that’s your prerogative, however, we have chosen three common places for elephant tattoos that are both practical and creative.
Elephant Tattoos on Thigh
An elephant thigh tattoo is a thoughtful placement and also means that you really want to show off your tattoo.
Therefore, this tattoo placement of an elephant means that you are a bold person who can be quiet and gentle, but if rubbed the wrong way, can become quite reckless.
Your thigh is a nice, fleshy area that makes the perfect canvas for a cool tattoo.
Most people have enough real estate on their thighs for a pretty rad, detailed tattoo design.
Bonus: You can hide your ink at work and show it off at the beach.
Elephant Tattoos on Forearm
This is a common spot for any style of elephant tattoo and is a great way to show it off.
In fact, it’s so common, I’m not going to lie to you there is really no extra meaning endowed with such placement.
Other than the fact that you are really proud of the tattoo design and style you have chosen, a forearm elephant tattoo is just a way of saying ‘hey, ask me what this means’.
Elephant Tattoos on Ankle
Want a tiny tattoo?
If you don’t want to go all out with your elephant tattoo, leave it to an ankle tattoo to have a little sneaky somethin’ hiding at the cusp of your pant leg.
This tattoo can mean that you value intelligence, are a brave person, or are wise beyond your years.
Elephant Chest Tattoos
Elephant tattoos are a natural fit for chest pieces.
The shape of your breastplate is the perfect home for wide ears and long tapered trunk.
Go bold and take up space with this dazzling tattoo design.
The elephant is an amazing animal for so many reasons.
As we’ve discussed, they can also be a bit temperamental.
However, the main object of an elephant tattoo meaning is being wise above all else, which is a trait that should be most important to all of us.
So, if you are considering an elephant tattoo, make sure you choose a tattoo design and tattoo style which speaks to your soul.
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Alyssa Renee McCormack is a writer, curator, and photographer who publishes articles on the topics of the arts, culture, and social justice. She graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology with a degree in fashion business and art history and museum professions. Her experience working with a variety of art institutions, her world travel, and her inquisitive nature provides her with a unique insight. Check out her about page, she would love to connect with you!