by Tori Jones
Octopus Tattoo

Hello dear readers! The octopus – an enigmatic creature, whose silhouette carries with it a tidal wave of symbolism that crosses cultural boundaries. Let’s plunge into these diverse oceanic depths to explore the significance of octopus tattoos across different cultures.

Japanese Octopus Tattoo Meanings

Japanese Octopus Tattoo Meanings
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In the vibrant world of Japanese ink, the octopus holds a special place. Japan’s island status and historical connection to the sea have birthed an artistic affinity for marine creatures, the octopus being a star player. A tale that frequently surfaces in my studio involves the Akkorokamui, a colossal, legendary octopus from Ainu folklore. Brimming with danger yet imbued with healing powers and religious wisdom, the Akkorokamui reflects the duality found in the Japanese octopus tattoo – it symbolizes either formidable intelligence or wild unpredictability. I once inked an Akkorokamui on Tomoko, a Japanese expat who wanted to reconnect with her heritage. In her words, “It’s a piece of home, right on my skin.”

Japanese Octopus Tattoo Meanings
@emanuelesircanatattoo Via Instagram – Want your tattoo to look brighter? Try tattoo balm 

Polynesian Octopus Tattoo Meanings

Polynesian Octopus Tattoo Meanings

Jumping from the Eastern to the Southern Pacific, we land in the realm of Polynesian tattoos. Polynesian ink, like their vibrant tribal patterns, embodies interconnectedness. The octopus in Polynesian tattoos carries a deeply personal meaning. Jake, a New Zealand Maori, had an octopus tattooed on his back as a symbol of his journey overcoming addiction. It’s a reminder, he told me, of “the chains he had broken and the character he continues to shape.”

What Does the Octopus Tattoo Mean to Sailors?

Our journey through the oceans would be incomplete without a nod to the sailor’s narrative. In the maritime world, the octopus is a symbol of resilience and tactical acumen. I remember tattooing a detailed octopus design on an old sea-dog named Benny. For him, the octopus embodied his lifelong sailor spirit – the ability to navigate stormy seas and rebound from adversity.

The Blue Ringed Octopus Tattoo Meanings

Blue Ringed Octopus Tattoo
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But the octopus’s narrative doesn’t end here. The creative playground of tattoo artistry has given birth to diverse octopus designs, each carrying its unique symbolism. Take the Blue Ringed Octopus tattoo, for instance. This small but deadly Pacific predator is a symbol of inner strength and unyielding determination.

Elephant Octopus Tattoo Meanings

Elephant Octopus Tattoo Meanings

For the lovers of the extraordinary, the Elephant Octopus tattoo blends the wisdom of the elephant with the emotional intelligence of the octopus. This hybrid symbol, as Maya, an environmental scientist sporting this design said, is “a testimony to the interconnected magic of the animal kingdom.”

Skull Octopus Tattoo Meanings

Skull Octopus Tattoo Meanings
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The Skull Octopus tattoo, with its blend of the ephemerality of a skull and the creative intelligence of an octopus, is a popular choice among those grappling with existential questions. For them, like Mike, a philosophy professor I inked, the tattoo is a daily reminder of “the temporal beauty of existence.”

Ship and Octopus Tattoo Meaning

Ship and Octopus Tattoo Meaning
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Finally, we can’t forget the classic Ship and Octopus tattoo. A symbolic representation of the battle between man and nature, this design is a tribute to the age-old tales of sailors braving the oceanic monsters. As Lisa, a navy officer who wears this design eloquently put, “It’s a symbol of my readiness to face life’s storms, just like my forebears.”

Whether you’re drawn to the octopus tattoo for its symbolism, aesthetic appeal, or cultural significance, remember that in the end, it’s your personal narrative that brings life to the ink. Every tattoo has a tale to tell – and that, dear readers, is the captivating allure of the octopus tattoo.

Still Need Some Inspiration?

Believe it or not there are many other designs and interpretations of octopus tattoos. Here are a few:

  1. Watercolor Octopus Tattoos: These tattoos utilize the soft blending and vivid hues of watercolor art, resulting in stunning, vibrant designs. This style could signify an appreciation for creativity and the fluidity of life, much like the ever-changing sea.
  2. Tribal Octopus Tattoos: Drawing inspiration from traditional tribal art, these designs often feature bold, black lines and intricate patterns. Tribal tattoos are usually associated with strength, unity, and a connection to one’s ancestral roots.
  3. Geometric Octopus Tattoos: These designs, characterized by angular and geometric shapes, can signify order and precision. They can also reflect the person’s fascination with the balance of nature and the underlying order of the universe.
  4. Steampunk Octopus Tattoos: Inspired by the sci-fi subgenre, these tattoos incorporate elements like gears, clocks, and mechanical parts. It could reflect the wearer’s fascination with the juxtaposition of nature and technology.
  5. Octopus and Anchor Tattoos: The combination of an octopus and an anchor often serves as a homage to the deep sea, and could be chosen by those who feel a strong connection to the ocean. The anchor symbolizes stability and strong foundations, while the octopus may represent flexibility and adaptability, creating a powerful symbol of balance.
  6. Octopus and Compass Tattoos: This design could symbolize guidance, protection, and a strong sense of direction. The octopus can represent adaptability and intelligence, while the compass is a widely recognized symbol for navigation and exploration.
  7. Cherry Blossom Octopus Tattoos: The combination of the octopus with cherry blossoms, particularly in a Japanese-style tattoo, creates a powerful representation of life’s ephemeral beauty and the need for resilience. The cherry blossom represents the fleeting nature of life, while the octopus symbolizes strength and adaptability.

Remember, the meaning of a tattoo can be deeply personal, and while these interpretations provide a general idea, the significance of your tattoo is ultimately what you make it.


Well, folks, we’ve swam through the deep waters of octopus tattoo meanings across cultures, seen how they interlace personal narratives, and gazed at the imaginative fusion of designs. As a seasoned tattoo artist, I’d like to share a few pearls of wisdom for those contemplating an octopus tattoo.

Deciding where to place your octopus tattoo will largely depend on the complexity of the design and how much you’re ready to flaunt it. Detailed pieces can take center stage on larger canvases like the back or thigh, while minimalist interpretations can nestle nicely on smaller spaces like the wrist or ankle.

Budget-wise, the cost of an octopus tattoo can be as diverse as the designs themselves, starting around $150 for a simple rendition, scaling up to $1000 or more for intricate, larger pieces. Remember, you’re investing in art that’s going to be with you for life, so consider the quality and expertise of your artist as part of the investment.

Like any tattoo, there are potential risks and downsides. There’s the pinch of pain and the commitment of aftercare. In rare cases, some folks might have allergic reactions to certain inks or suffer from infection if not properly cared for. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your artist before you take the plunge.

At the end of the day, your octopus tattoo is a celebration of your individuality and resilience. It’s an inked testament to your journey, brimming with rich, symbolic undercurrents. But remember, the most enchanting aspect of any tattoo is the story it tells. So, dive in, choose your narrative, and let your skin tell your tale.

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