by Tori Jones
Monkey Tattoo

If you’ve ever spotted a primate adorning someone’s arm or back and wondered about the deeper significance, or if you’ve been considering getting your own, you’ve found your way to the right corner of the internet. Just like those curious creatures we know and love, let’s swing headlong into the jungle of symbolic interpretations and cultural underpinnings of the monkey tattoo.

In this fascinating foray, we’ll explore everything from the monkey’s presence in various cultural mythologies to its psychological symbolism and relevance in popular culture. By the end, you’ll not only be familiar with a monkey’s traditional meanings, but also how to adapt them to your own personal narrative.

So whether you’re planning your first tattoo, looking for an addition to your growing collection, or just here for a fun read – this post will guide you through the intricate maze of monkey tattoo meanings and give you a fresh perspective on this playful and wise creature. Trust me, it’s more than just monkey business!

Baby Monkey Tattoo Designs

Baby Monkey Tattoo
@summer_t_ Via Instagram – Want your tattoo to look brighter? Try tattoo balm 

Nothing captures the spirit of childhood and freedom quite like the baby monkey tattoo design. In its innocent gaze and playful disposition, we find echoes of our own youth. In my years as a tattoo artist, I’ve seen these designs serve as a beautiful testament to those carefree days, marking a sweet chapter in life’s storybook.

Chimpanzee Tattoo Designs

Chimpanzee Tattoo
@yann_tattoo Via Instagram – Want your tattoo to look brighter? Try tattoo balm 

Did you know that we share about 98.7% of our DNA with chimpanzees? This close genetic connection places them as our siblings in the grand family tree of life. In the realm of body art, a chimpanzee tattoo celebrates this deep-seated kinship. It’s like carrying a bit of our evolutionary past etched into our skin — a nod to our intertwined destinies.

Grease Monkey Tattoo Designs

Grease Monkey Tattoo
@twokingstattoostudio Via Instagram – Want your tattoo to look brighter? Try tattoo balm 

“Grease monkey” — an endearing term for anyone with a knack for tinkering. These monkeys are curious creatures, never missing a chance to take things apart and piece them back together. It’s not just a testament to their intelligence, but their persistent pursuit of understanding. A tattoo with this motif? It’s perfect for those of us who find joy in the mechanics of life and the pleasure of problem-solving.

Hear, See, Speak No Evil Monkeys Tattoo Designs

Hear, See, Speak No Evil Monkeys Tattoo
@strokertattoo Via Instagram – Want your tattoo to look brighter? Try tattoo balm 

My clients often ask about the story behind the iconic ‘Hear, See, Speak No Evil’ monkeys. Their origin is rooted in an 8th century Tendai-Buddhist phrase: ‘mizaru, kikazaru, iwazaru,’. Because ‘zaru’ sounds like ‘saru’ – the Japanese word for monkey, these wise primates became the face of the proverb. As a tattoo design, they serve as a constant reminder of moral conduct, drawing on the timeless wisdom of Confucius.

Monkey King Tattoo Designs

Monkey King Tattoo
@adam_namakubi Via Instagram – Want your tattoo to look brighter? Try tattoo balm 

The Monkey King is an enduring figure in Chinese mythology. Legend has it, he gained superpowers through diligent study of Taoist principles. Known for his strength, speed, and remarkable resemblance to the Hindu deity Hanuman, a Monkey King tattoo is a testament to the potent mix of knowledge and strength.

Monkey Skull Tattoo Designs

Monkey Skull Tattoo
@matiaserm Via Instagram – Want your tattoo to look brighter? Try tattoo balm 

A monkey skull tattoo design — now, this one’s a little more on the grim side, but no less profound. It serves as a stark reminder of our mortality, a symbolic nudge to embrace change, adapt and evolve. Having inked many of these, I find the people choosing this design often carry a deeper philosophical understanding of life and its transient nature.

Tribal Monkey Tattoo Designs

Tribal Monkey Tattoo
@dario_kristoffersen Via Instagram – Want your tattoo to look brighter? Try tattoo balm 

The tribal monkey tattoo design connects us to our ancient roots. With influences from Polynesian, Native American, and Haida cultures, it is a tribute to the monkey’s role as a symbol of joy, innocence, and religious significance. Monkeys, with their playfulness and curiosity, have always been held in high regard, embodying many of our most cherished human qualities. A tattoo of this design is more than a piece of art; it’s a celebration of our shared history and values.

Still looking For Inspiration?

If none of the ideas above floated your boat, what about capturing a different aspects of this fascinating creature’s symbolism. Let’s delve into a few more designs not previously mentioned in our discussion:

  1. Astrological Monkey Tattoos: In the Chinese Zodiac, the Monkey is one of the twelve signs, symbolizing cleverness, innovation, and versatility. People often get tattoos of the Monkey sign to reflect their birth year or these desirable traits.
  2. Cartoon Monkey Tattoos: For a playful, light-hearted vibe, cartoon monkeys are a popular choice. They can be from a beloved childhood TV show, film, or even a unique creation of your tattoo artist.
  3. Steampunk Monkey Tattoos: A unique blend of Victorian era aesthetics and industrial machinery, a steampunk monkey can be a creative way to show your love for this alternate reality genre.
  4. Abstract Monkey Tattoos: These designs take a modern, often non-representational approach. The monkey can be represented through fragmented shapes, brush strokes, or other abstract elements, creating a unique and artistic design.
  5. Geometric Monkey Tattoos: The blend of intricate geometric shapes to form the image of a monkey provides a visually appealing and modern representation.
  6. Watercolor Monkey Tattoos: Using the watercolor style in a monkey tattoo provides a more fluid, colorful, and softer approach to the design.

Remember, when it comes to tattoos, the possibilities are virtually endless. Always collaborate with your artist to come up with a design that suits your personal style and resonates with your individual story.


And there you have it, folks — our journey into the intriguing world of monkey tattoos. As we’ve explored, each design carries a unique symbolism, from the innocence of a baby monkey to the wisdom of the ‘Hear, See, Speak No Evil’ trio, the mythical power of the Monkey King, and the profound truth of the monkey skull. Monkeys, in their myriad forms, truly encapsulate a spectrum of human emotions and experiences.

When considering your monkey tattoo, remember that it’s not just about picking a design that looks cool — although that certainly counts! It’s about choosing a design that resonates with you, one that reflects your personal journey, beliefs, or experiences.

Keep in mind, tattoos are a lifelong commitment. They involve a level of pain and carry a risk of infection if not done properly. It’s vital to go to a reputable, professional tattoo artist who prioritizes hygiene and safety. Don’t hesitate to ask questions or seek advice — a good artist will always be willing to help.

Remember, the beauty of a tattoo lies not just in its aesthetic appeal but in its deeply personal meaning. Whether you’re celebrating a phase of life, marking a spiritual connection, or expressing a piece of your personality, your monkey tattoo will become a part of your story, etched on your skin for a lifetime.

And there’s no rush — take your time, do your research, and when you’re ready, I’m sure you’ll make the best choice for you. Just like the monkeys we admire, let’s approach this adventure with curiosity, joy, and a sense of playfulness. Now, go forth and embrace your own unique ink journey!

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