Dolphin Tattoos: History, Meanings & Designs

Dolphin Tattoos: History, Meanings & Designs

One of the most fascinating, intelligent, and inspiring creatures in the animal kingdom is the dolphin! 

Ocean life is an interesting field of study and excites the curiosity of beachgoers and scientists alike. No animal in the ocean is more interesting than the dolphin.

From their popularity in pop culture such as films, novels, documentaries and even toys, to the stunts they can perform featuring on YouTube, it’s no wonder many people’s favorite animal is this porpoise. Even less surprising is the fact that many want this animal tattooed on their body!

Untitled-1 copy

What is the History of Dolphin Tattoos?

Before you decide on getting a tattoo of this animal, or try to analyze it’s meaning, it can be helpful to grasp what makes dolphins so unique.

These porpoises are part of the scientific order Cetacea. This means they are related to whales and other porpoises, not fish or their scarier lookalike, sharks. They are known for their speed, agility, and overall, intelligence!

There are more than thirty different species of dolphins, especially if you include their biggest relative, the Orca or Killer Whale. You’ll know you’ve spotted a porpoise if you see a missile-shaped body, neat, sharp teeth, and a beautifully curved dorsal fin.

The main way to make sure you’re not noticing a shark is to check the tail: a shark’s swings from side-to-side, while a dolphin’s pumps up and down! In addition, these porpoises almost always look like their smiling with happily upturned beaks. Who doesn’t love a smiling critter?

These animals have a number of endearing traits and habits that we humans just can’t help but admire. For example, dolphins are not solitary, but spend their whole lives in pods or family groups.

They have been studied to find that they experience emotions even more deeply than we do, and engage in play by leaping out of the water. These animals have also been known to act friendly toward humans and even rescue them from the dangers of the ocean, simply out of kindness.

One of the earliest stories of a nice dolphin, for example, is one named Simo. He was written about by a Roman named Pliny the Elder all the way back in AD 77! Simo was best buddies with a little boy who fed him bread, and even let the child ride on his back.

In popular culture, one of the most famous characters is Flipper, a heroic dolphin who becomes friends with a child and spends a whole movie and television show saving swimmers and winning people’s hearts.

Dolphins are so beloved by humans, and intelligent, that we’ve not only named a Miami Football team after them, but we train and work with them in entertainment shows around the world, like those featured in SeaWorld, Florida.

It’s no wonder that these spectacular animals are a favorite choice for tattoos!

Untitled-2 copy

What Do Dolphin Tattoos Symbolize?

The oldest symbolism related to dolphins is protection and salvation. For example, one ancient Greek myth involves a dolphin swimming up and rescuing a poet from drowning without ever having spent time with humans before.

A friendly, underwater aid coming out of nowhere in the nick of time can feel so miraculous that many cultures associate the animal with supernatural spirit guides.

Even in modern times, these animals are known for being altruistic and rescuing not only people who are in danger of drowning, but even other animals, like cats and dogs, who are in over their heads. Not only that, but they are strong enough to fight off sharks when the toothy predators get too close to their children or even scuba divers.

Therefore, these fun-loving creatures are symbolic of help and protection. Not only that, but their playful nature and goodwill make them symbols of fun and play in the ocean.

Because they tend to live in family groups and are so community-minded, these social mammals symbolize family and society, too.

Untitled-3 copy

What Do Dolphin Tattoos Mean?

Although they’re pretty standard emblems of loving ocean life and fun in the sun, these animals have been so popular and universally beloved over the years that tattoos of them can have many meanings! Check out the list of popular designs below:

  • Moon Dolphin
  • Tribal Dolphin
  • Yin ; Yang

Now that we’ve listed some of the most popuar tattoos, let’s take a closer look at their possible meanings.

Moon Dolphin

This design typically features a dolphin curved around a crescent moon. This makes sense visually, because the natural shape of the animal is very similar to the smallest phase of our moon. 

Not only that, but ocean life is often associated with the tide, which is controlled by the moon’s gravity. This usually means that the wearer either loves the sea, or the night, or both!

Tribal Dolphin

Tribal tattoos are very popular, especially among those who surf or enjoy ocean-related culture. Therefore, it’s a no-brainer to combine this fun-loving ocean animal with the striking tribal designs.

Usually this tattoo means that the wearer feels a connection to the sea and spends much of their time in or around the water.

Yin ; Yang

Dolphins are creatures of love and social pleasure. They love to play and chase one another, and when they are arranged in a circle, they are reminiscent of the ancient Chinese symbol of Yin ; Yang. 

Yin ; Yang tattoos featuring dolphins can mean balance, or specifically the balance found in nature.

Untitled-4 copy

Characteristics and Styles of Dolphin Tattoos

Dolphin tattoos typically feature the animal itself, which is very distinct in a crescent shape. Because the animal’s form is so easily-recognizable, there are no limits to how many different characteristics and styles the tattoos can come in. 

Some tattoos are in full color, featuring not only the blue-gray dolphin, but colored images of the beach or ocean. Others, especially tribal designs, are entirely black and iconic.

Untitled-5 copy

Where Do Dolphin Tattoos Usually Go?

Because of the huge variety they can come in, these tattoos can go just about anywhere. However, the most likely location for a dolphin tattoo is the upper back, shoulder, or abdomen.

Untitled-6 copy


In summary, dolphin tattoos are symbolic of salvation, goodwill, family, and a love for the ocean. They can be fully colored, tribally styled, or simple black outlines thanks to the animal’s distinct shape. A dolphin tattoo usually means that the wearer enjoys the ocean, loves the animal, or feels a communion with nature and their fellow man.

Leave a Reply