Realistic Tiger Tattoo

The Various Meanings Of Tiger Tattoo Designs

What Does A Tiger Tattoo Mean?

The tiger is known to Asian cultures as being a fierce creature with knowledge and protection.

We will go deep into the history of tiger symbolism to understand what the tiger tattoo means.

The tiger is a free spirit— it’s the king of its domain and has free reign over it.

It is common in tiger tattoos for the tiger to be growling with its mouth wide open and its teeth sharp and deadly.

Here are some common meanings of tiger tattoos:

  • Protection
  • Strength
  • Passion
  • Free Spirit

Tigers are symbolically protectors of the dead.

They are kings of the wild and therefore rule over all other animals.

Perhaps this is where their symbolism as protectors began— they are in control.

The tiger tattoo means strength because the tiger is a physically capable animal with enormous strength.

This has translated into strength in the metaphorical sense in tiger tattoos.

Passion means a powerful emotion, such as pain or joy.

Looking at a tiger’s face, you can see the passion in its eyes and the sheer intensity in its spirit.

The tiger is a free spirit, independent from the needs of higher animals, even humans.

In so many cultures the tiger is a highly important symbol of the element wind.

The wind is free and decides the blow in whichever direction it chooses.

Tiger Tattoo Meanings in Different Cultures

Across the Asian continent, the tiger stands out as an impressive force in literary history.

Its many meanings across Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and Thai cultures represent what the tiger now means to these nations.

It’s important to be aware of this tattoo’s cultural history, which is highlighted as the following:

  • Tiger Tattoo Meanings in Japan

Japanese style tattoos are often colorful: when they depict tigers, they are done with bright orange ink.

The tiger in Japanese culture is symbolic of many things: the season of autumn, the direction of the West, evil spirits, disease, as well as bad luck.

The tiger also receives some of its symbolism from Chinese culture, symbolizing the wind. 

Byakko is the Japanese name of the white tiger and represents one of the four Chinese constellations (Black tortoise of the North, Azure dragon of the East, and Vermillion bird of the south are the others).

There are also seven astrological symbols associated with the white tiger, related to positions of the moon.

  • Tiger Tattoo Meaning in China

Chinese tiger tattoos have detailed backgrounds and these too are often colorful tattoos.

Chinese culture is the origin of most meanings we have today about the tiger.

For centuries, the tiger was presented with a Han character on its forehead meaning, “king”.

That is because the Chinese believe that the tiger is the king of all animals in its domain. 

The tiger became a mythological creature in Chinese culture.

Part of its legend is that after five hundred years the tiger turns to all white.

Also, there was a legend a tiger would present itself if an emperor were moral and just.

In Chinese myth, the tiger controls the element of wind and is known as the Guardian Of The West.

It is also the guardian of the dead and is often etched onto tombstones in China.

As we have discussed, the tiger is part of four Chinese constellations, meaning it is one of the four most important animals to Chinese culture.

  • Korean Tiger Tattoo Meaning

The white tiger in Korean is called the Baekho and is also referred to as an animal of the west and of autumn.

Korean tiger tattoos are more cartoonish looking than others but also are very interesting tattoos to have.

Korean tiger symbolism comes from the Dangun myth, where a tiger and a bear compete to become human beings.

The catch is they had to eat only mugwort and garlic in a cave for one hundred days without seeing sunlight.

Korean Tiger Tattoo

The bear, following instructions, was eventually turned into a patient woman, while the tiger ran away.

They both became humans and their child, Dangun, founded the first-ever kingdom in the history of Korea.

This tale means that Korean tiger tattoos symbolize Korean heritage and masculinity.

  • Thai Tiger Tattoo Meaning

Thai tiger tattoos tend to have two tigers facing each other with Thai lettering surrounding the tigers.

They are often symmetrical in form.

Their meaning is protection, stealth, power, and speed.

Emotionally, they represent compassion.

Thai tiger tattoos can even go as far as helping in finances, business negotiations, and protection from natural disasters. 

“SakYant” means mantra tattoo in Thailand, and sakyant often include tigers.

The tiger Yant is popular with military personnel and police.

It is also popular amongst businessmen and politicians. 

Tiger Yant Tattoo

The Meanings of Tiger Tattoo Styles

We have found three major styles for tiger tattoos that make for meaningful tattoos.

From Japanese style tattoos to American traditional, here are some meaningful tattoo ideas in the form of a tiger:

  • American Traditional Tiger Tattoo Meaning

The American traditional tiger tattoo is typically shown growling fiercely and may even be wearing headdresses or have a dagger in the tiger’s head.

American traditional style of tiger tattoo means power, bravery, and intense determination.

  • Tribal Tiger Tattoo Meaning

Tribal tattoos show the bare bones of the tiger’s body.

This can show anything from a tiger about the pounce on its prey to the tiger’s head on top of a tribal patterned background.

Anyone who gets a tribal tiger tattoo is instilled with the ultimate spirit of the animal.

The tribal tiger tattoo represents strength in oneself and indicates that you are a free spirit. 

  • Japanese Style Tiger Tattoo Meaning

Along with all the meaning behind tigers in Japanese culture, Japanese style tattoos of tigers represent passion and aptitude in battle.

Other than that, they also represent good fortune and wealth.

This is one of the favorites of Japanese style tattoos.

That’s probably because the tiger tattoo has a great aesthetic, often placed as a back piece or a full sleeve, and represents so many important themes.

Meanings of Different Tiger Tattoo Designs

Tiger tattoo designs change meaning depending on the type of tiger used in the tattoo, as well as the symbolism behind it.

The white tiger and saber tooth tiger each have their own meanings; and when a dragon or a butterfly is added to the tiger tattoo, it forms new meaning.

Let’s take a look at some different tiger tattoo designs:

  • White Tiger Tattoo Meaning

The white tiger, as we’ve discussed, carries with it a lot of Chinese symbolism representing the season of autumn.

However, a white tiger tattoo can also mean that you have wisdom or knowledge.

The color white also denotes the symbolism of a healer or protector, which the tiger certainly is.

The white tiger tattoo is perfect for someone who feels they protect those they love.

  • Dragon & Tiger Tattoo Meaning

Dragons are considered wise mythological beings in China.

Therefore, the dragon and tiger as a team mean that cunning strength is not enough— one requires wisdom to move through life even with intense courageousness.

Without wisdom, all of that hard work someone puts into a project is meaningless.

The dragon and tiger tattoo symbolizes the mixture of the two ideas.

Essentially, this tattoo means if you are a hard working person who is wise in your decision-making, you will be successful.

This tattoo is excellent for businessmen and women.

  • Tiger & Butterfly Tattoo Meaning

Some tiger tattoos have tigers with butterflies surrounding them, while others have a tiger’s face inside of the container of a butterfly’s body.

This tattoo means freedom and independence.

Both the butterfly and the tiger are free spirits.

The butterfly flies in the wind, just as the tiger represents the wind.

Tiger and butterfly tattoos together resemble a colorful and unique tattoo that is inspirational of living free.

Butterfly and Tiger Tattoo
  • Saber-Tooth Tiger Tattoo Meaning

The extinct saber tooth tiger when placed in tattoos represents vengeance and passion.

The saber-tooth tiger, as one could tell by its name, was a fierce creature.

A saber-tooth tiger tattoo shows that you are a strong person and that you dare to take risks.

If you have a saber-tooth tiger tattoo it means that you are passionate, whether it be hate or love, you use that passion with fierce actions.

This would be a great tattoo for a boxer, American football player, or rugby player.

Saber-Tooth Tiger Tattoo


The tiger tattoo is a powerful symbol because its imagery is stunning and its history in folklore is rich with meaning.

From China to Korea, the tiger is known for different stories that tell tales of cultural heritage and rulers seeking advice based off of the tiger’s decision.

Tiger tattoo designs and styles reflect the meanings of power, strength, courage, fearlessness, determination, and freedom.

The tiger is a free spirit, representing a power over the world that few dare to seek.

The tiger tattoo is a choice for those who are brave, fearless, and determined to make it in this world.

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