The Symbolism And Meaning Of Skull Tattoos

When it comes to identity and self expression tattoos can be really important to some people. Tattoos can be used as a way for some people to express themselves and their creative mindset.

The Symbolism And Meaning Of Skull Tattoos
Image: @skulltattooestudio

Many people see their own bodies as a blank canvas that is free to be decorated however they wish to do so.

Sometimes people choose to get tattoos simply for aesthetic reasons whereas others get them because they are symbolic of a greater meaning to them.

Regardless of why people choose to get tattoos the vast majority of individuals do have some sort of reason behind why they get the tattoos that they do.

So, What Do Skull Tattoos Mean?

Skull tattoos have been popular for centuries and there are numerous reasons for this, some of which are simply aesthetic and others which are based around much more meaning. There are too many different meanings of the skull tattoo to list but some of the most common can be found below. 

The Symbolism And Meaning Of Skull Tattoos

Good Or Evil

A skull is often associated with the concept of good or evil. There are many reasons behind this such as the fact that the skull encompasses the brain which of course is where decision making happens.

Similarly this connection seems to be made due to the fact that skills are often used as a depiction of evil yet they are necessary to experience life.

Overall, people may choose to get the skull tattoo to symbolise good or evil for many reasons including an inner struggle they face within themself such as addiction which can make a person feel like they have both a good and an evil side.

Similarly, a lot of mental health conditions can leave people feeling like this so it can also be used within the mental health community. 

The Symbolism And Meaning Of Skull Tattoos
Image: @tattoo__skull

Life And Death

There is nothing more human than life and death. Life and death are the two certainties that we face in life. It is certain that we will live just as it is certain that we will die.

This harsh reality can be challenging for some people to face and therefore having a tattoo to depict it can help them to feel an element of control over it and can help them to come to terms with this fact. Similarly, it can be used to depict exactly what our existence entails by anyone. 

Transience And Human Mortality

Much like mentioned above, human mortality is a difficult thing to come to terms with in escience it involves the realisation that our life is finite and that we can lose everything at any given moment.

Not only does human mortality mean that your life can be taken away from you at any moment but it also means that you could lose your loved ones at any second.

Some people find it comforting to depict this harsh reality rather than have it exist solely within their mind. Similarly, people sometimes use this tattoo to cope if they have learnt the lesson of human mortality in a hard way such as losing a loved one or having a near death experience. 

The Passing Of Time

Sometimes a skull is used to symbolise the passing of time. This is partially because as our face changes over time, for instance, it becomes more wrinkly, your eyes start to sag and dark patches start, throughout adulthood our skull stays pretty much the same.

People may want a symbol of the passing of time on their bodies as a constant motivator to make everyday count as time is precious.

It can also remind people to not take time for granted and to spend your time wisely such as with the people that you love.

Intellect And Consciousness

As the skull holds the brain and protects it at all costs it is also often used to depict intellect and consciousness. Many people choose to have a skull tattoo to symbolise this meaning and there are several reasons for this.

The Symbolism And Meaning Of Skull Tattoos
Image: @tattoo__skull

One reason is simply that some people value intelligence and therefore want imagery of it as it is something that they admire.

Similarly, some people see themselves as avid intellects so want this tattoo in order to put their intelligence into pictures and externalise an internal attribute.

The final common reason for getting this tattoo to depict this meaning is as a tribute, if a lost loved one was known for being intelligent some people like to make this clear in their tributes to them. 

Strength And Power

Often, the skull is associated with strength and power this is again because its strength protects one of the most important organs, the brain. People often want to show strength and power in their tattoos as a form of self reminder and to motivate themselves.

Similarly people who have used their strength to survive horrendous things such as domestic abuse may choose to have this tattoo to show that they have regained their power.

It can also be linked to the strength that is needed to battle your mental health each day.

The Symbolism And Meaning Of Skull Tattoos
Image: @skull_tattoos_inspiration

Change And Transformation

Change and transformation is a beautiful thing and often something that people wish to depict in their tattoos. The skull can be a way of achieving this as again it is linked to the mind and protects it during times of change, it is also something that grows and transforms as children grow up.

People often choose to have a tattoo to depict this message if they feel as though they have been through a period of transformation, this is most commonly linked to self growth and increased self esteem and confidence.

Similarly, people may choose to have this tattoo to show that they have been through a more challenging change such as having a life altering injury.

It can remind people of what they have overcome and the fact that they have learnt to deal with this change. 

Image: @Saved Tattoo

Overcoming Adversity

Much like the above, the skull is linked to adversity this is because it is a form of protection and can also be quick to heal.

Many people who have faced any form of adversity choose to have this symbolised on their body as a reminder of what they have overcome. Examples of adversity could be a learning difficulty, poverty or the death of a loved one. 

Subcultural Meanings

When it comes to skulls there is a close link to subcultures. For instance, people who identify as part of the goth, emo or scene community often use skulls to represent this.

There is no more permanent way of achieving this then through a tattoo therefore a lot of people choose to have a skull tattoo for this reason.

The Symbolism And Meaning Of Skull Tattoos
Image: @skull_tattoos_inspiration

Best Places To Have A Skull Tattoo

Skull tattoos can be done in all sorts of places and people choose to have them all over their body. Ultimately where you choose to have your tattoo is up to you however, there are some things to consider such as: 


It is up to you how big you want your skull tattoo to be but this needs to be taken into consideration when trying to decide where to have it.

Many people choose to have this tattoo done to quite a large scale, if you decided to do this you would need to pick an area with a larger surface such as the back. However, you might decide that you want a much smaller skull tattoo in which case it can be done anywhere.


When deciding where to have any tattoo you should consider your own personal pain threshold. Some more painful places include your spine, fingers, and ribs so if you have a low pain tolerance then these might be some places worth trying to avoid.

The Symbolism And Meaning Of Skull Tattoos
Image: @tattoo__skull


Deciding to have a tattoo is one thing but it is also important to consider whether or not you want to be able to cover it up. This could be for reasons such as work, family disapproval or for certain social situations.

Generally speaking the skull tattoo can be seen as quite controversial so depending on your individual circumstances you may choose to have it somewhere that it can be covered up in certain situations however if you do not wish to do this that is equally fine. 

Social Acceptance

Similarly to the above, when deciding on the placement of your tattoo you should try to weigh up how socially acceptable it is as this could have an impact on where you choose to have it.

People view the skull tattoo in numerous different ways and therefore only you can really judge how it will be taken within your social circle and how much of an impact you want this to have on where you have it.

Final Thoughts

There are multiple different symbolic meanings behind the skull tattoo so it is impossible to come up with one simple definition of the symbolism and meaning behind it. However, it is clear that it is often linked with mortality and the very meaning of being human. 

Peter Beaker