Even thousands of years later, the world of ancient Egypt seems mysterious and enigmatic, so much so that even nowadays we are still inspired and in awe with this ancient culture and civilization. From mythology to mesmerizing art and symbolism, ancient Egyptian culture will probably never cease to amaze and inspire us.
That would explain why Egyptian tattoos are so popular, worldwide. The ancient symbolism, motifs, Egyptian hieroglyphs, and deities serve as never-ending inspiration for different concepts of Egyptian tattoos. Even ancient Egyptian tattoos seem to make a comeback in modern times.
Therefore, if you’re interested in getting an Egyptian tattoo, you’re in the right place. In the following paragraphs, we’ll explore popular Egyptian symbolism and motifs as well as how they can be used for your tattoo design. So, let’s get started!
Popular Egyptian Motifs + Tattoo Designs and Meanings
Egyptian Cat Tattoo
Cats were some of the most important animals in ancient Egypt. For thousands of years, they were represented in religious and social practices, so much so, that even several Egyptian deities were depicted to have cat-like heads. For example, the deity Mut (meaning ‘mother goddess’) was depicted as a cat in the company of a cat.
The reason for all of this lies in the protective nature of cats; for centuries, cats were responsible for killing snakes, scorpions, and mice around Egypt, saving the people from numerous illnesses.
As for Egyptian Cat tattoos, the cat is often depicted with wings, heavily adorned with jewelry, and incredibly striking eyes. The cat is often black and features elements like the Eye of Horus, rising suns, and other Egyptian motifs.
Eye of Horus Tattoo
One of the globally recognized ancient Egyptian symbols is the Eye of Horus. It is a religious symbol that represents healing, well-being, health, and protection.
The symbols of the Eye stems from a mythical conflict between Horus and Set (god of desserts and storms, rival of Horus). Set managed to injure Horus and destroy his eyes. However, one eye for healed and returned to Horus, who later offered his eye to his deceased father Osiris.
The eye symbol as we know it today is actually a hieroglyph, that was also used as a mathematic symbol in ancient Egypt (it stood for fractions). As a tattoo, the Eye of Horus is bold and striking, evoking the mysterious and mythical at first glance.
Also referred to as ‘the key of life’, Ankh is an ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic symbol used to represent words like ‘life’ and ‘living’ (it is believed it also meant ‘mirror’ and ‘floral bouquet’). As such, it became the symbol of life and was commonly held by the ancient Egyptian deities.
Ankh is of a cross shape; however, instead of the upper bar, there is a teardrop-shaped loop. The origins of this design are unknown, but even to this day, it is one of the most decorative elements in Egypt and neighboring cultures. Ankh is also one of the most popular motifs for tattoo designs in terms of ancient Egyptian concepts.
A pharaoh in ancient Egypt was a monarch and ruler from the First Dynasty. It is believed that a pharaoh was an intermediary between the deities and the people. Therefore, a pharaoh was both, a religious and a civil ruler and administrator. The pharaoh was responsible for the whole land, owned almost all of it, enacted laws ad officiated religious ceremonies.
Pharaoh was and still is, a symbol of power and exceptional ruling ability. It is one of the most common Egyptian symbols as well. That is why a Pharaoh tattoo would be an excellent way to celebrate ancient Egypt, since it is bold, outstanding, truly mysterious, and unique, just like a Pharaoh.
Nefertiti was an ancient Egyptian queen and the Great Royal Wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten. After her husband died, it is believed that Nefertiti continued to rule Egypt, which would make her one of the most powerful women from this era.
It is safe to say that Nefertiti is one of the most iconic and recognizable female personalities in the history of the human race. This Nefertiti bust, for example, is one of the most copied works of ancient Egypt. Without a doubt, almost every person in the world would know to describe how Nefertiti looks. That is why, if you want a tattoo that celebrates ancient Egypt, but also female power, beauty, and energy, Nefertiti is the tattoo to go for.
Anubis, also known as Anpu, was an ancient Egyptian deity. Generally depicted as a man with a jackal head, Anubis was a god of the dead as well as the good of the afterlife and mummification. It is believed that Anubis was also an embalmer. Because of its association with death, Anubis’ head is often black. The belief is that the black color actually has a positive connotation, symbolizing the rich Nile soils and rebirth.
As a tattoo, Anubis will be a bold design to carry. It is pretty intense, especially when fully colored. An Anubis tattoo is a statement piece, with a deep meaning. So, if you’re looking for a bold, unique tattoo, that translates the ancient Egyptian concept but is also meaningful, then consider getting an Anubis design.
Another powerful female figure of ancient Egypt is Cleopatra. She was the last active ruler of the Egyptian kingdom before it became a province of the Roman Empire. Cleopatra was known to be highly intelligent, resilient, and tenacious. Her work ethic has made her powerful and successful, and to this day, alongside Nefertiti, Cleopatra is one of the major historic symbols of feminine power, energy, and sensuality.
So, if you want an Egyptian tattoo with symbols of female power, female energy, feminism overall, as well as beauty and sensuality, then the Cleopatra tattoo is the one to go with. Her appearance may be less recognizable, but regardless, her beauty and intelligence always shine through a tattoo design.
One of the most famous, oldest, and globally recognized symbols of ancient Egypt is the pyramid. Now, pyramids are surrounded by mystery; no one really knows how they were constructed ad built, nor how the materials for their construction have been brought deep into the desert.
But, what we know is that the Egyptian pyramids served as the place where the pharaoh, for example, would enjoy his afterlife. Ancient Egyptians believed that every human has a second self known as the Ka; so, the belief is that the Ka would spend its life in the pyramid.
So, if you want to get a truly Egyptian tattoo, then what better design to go for than the pyramid. In most cases, the pyramid design is accompanied by other ancient Egyptian symbols as well, to further the imagery and meaning. But, if you want to go with just the pyramids, you’ll still get an equally effective and bold tattoo.
Isis was one of the most important goddesses in the religion of ancient Egypt. She and her husband, Osiris, were the most widely worshipped Egyptian deities. Isis was so respected that even Greeks worshipped her; Isis was generally worshipped across the Mediterranean world.
The goddess is generally depicted as a human with a throne-like hieroglyph on her head, as well as wings. She was believed to be a healer and protector, as well as that she had great magical powers.
Isis was also believed to be a great feminine influence since she was the protector of marriage, fertility, and love. So, if you want to celebrate ancient Egypt, but also honor and celebrate the feminine energy and power, then the Isis tattoo might be just for you.
Hieroglyphs are characters used in ancient Egyptian pictorial writing. These characters were used on ancient Egyptian monuments, generally to represent or explain the objects they depict. Hieroglyphs are composed of pictures, which are believed to have been used in actual writing with phonetic values.
These characters have always been mysterious and enigmatic, just like ancient Egypt. Although hieroglyphs have been deciphered a long time ago, to this day some of the characters and their meanings remain incomplete. So, what better way to capture the mystery and enigma of ancient Egypt than by getting a hieroglyphs tattoo.
Sphinx is a mythological creature with a human head and a lion’s body. Even though it is characteristic of Greek art and mythology, the earliest and most famous Sphinx is the Great Sphinx at Giza, Egypt.
It is believed to be a portrait statue of King Khafre, who is also the builder of the second pyramid at Giza. After the Great Sphinx, the portrait statue became incredibly popular, so much so that it became the main portrait type across Egyptian history, and spread across Asia as well.
Nowadays the Sphinx is one of the most recognizable symbols of ancient Egypt. It is also one of the main reasons why people visit Giza, alongside the pyramids, of course. So, if you want to get an Egyptian-themed tattoo, you should consider the iconic Sphinx for sure.
Egyptian Tattoos Placement Ideas
Here are our tops recommendations for tattoo placement, as well as which tattoo designs and symbols would work best for a particular placement on the body;
- Hand or finger placement – Egyptian tattoos that work best on the hand would be the ones featuring hieroglyphs and small but meaningful motifs like the Ankh or the Eye of Hours. Some people even get small pharaoh tattoos on their hands.
- Chest placement – now, the chest area is generally reserved for bold and big Egyptian symbols, often featuring multiple of them at the same time. Symbols like the pharaoh, the pyramids, the Egyptian cat, Anubis, Nefertiti, and so much more can all be incorporated into one big, impactful, and intense design. Of course, you can also go for one simple design as well.
- Back placement – just like the chest, the back allows you to go wild with the size and the design of the tattoo. People generally go for designs of Isis, with her wings spread wide, or for other famous Egyptian deities and rules. For those wanting a more subtle back placement design, we recommend the hieroglyphs row design or a small Ankh design on the upper back (just below the back side of the neck).
- Inner arm placement – this is a popular tattoo placement for subtle, simpler designs. The most common design for this placement is either Nefertiti or Cleopatra, while a lot of people also get the Eye of Horus.
- Forearm placement – if you want to get a breathtaking pharaoh tattoo, and you also want people to notice, then the forearm is an excellent placement idea. The forearm is an excellent placement choice since the skin is smooth and there is a lot of space for details.
Hopefully, this article was informative and helpful for those interested in getting an ancient Egypt-inspired tattoo. We tried to go into detail with the meanings, so you really know what kind of tattoo you’re getting. For more interesting tattoo ideas, make sure to check out or other articles; there are tattoo designs and ideas for everybody.