Tattoo Terms, Lingo, and Slang
Knowing your tattoo lingo can really help when you are in a tattoo studio talking to an artist. He or she may use certain tattoo terms and slang that you don’t fully understand.
The tattooing process can be called inking, carving, or pounding skin.
Sometimes it doesn’t seem like a big deal at the moment in time, but getting inked is a major decision a person may make on the fly. The ink is permanent and will last for your entire life unless removed or covered by a new one. If you do decide to have your tattoo removed, you may be left with a scar or tiny spots of left over ink in most cases. The most important thing you can do when getting a tattoo is that you should put as much thought as possible into is the art that you want. That is why we recommend getting your design from Chopper Tattoo, as they have the biggest and best selection of tattoo designs. You can print them out and take them to your local artist.
Placement of the new tattoo is also crucial. It is usually in your best interest to do a lot of research on the process of tattooing, and choosing the right tattoo artist and studio. As with most specific trades, there is a good amount of slang and jargon for terms specific to that trade that are widely used. If you do not read up on the tattoo slang, you may not fully understand when reading or talking about tattoos. If you do not have any idea what the artists are talking about you may end up confused or telling them the wrong thing to do. We have put together a word list of tattoo terms to help you understand the slang of this type of art.
Here is the list of tattoo terms and slang:
- Aftercare - The directions that the tattoo artist gives you for keeping infection and bacteria out of a new tattoo. After you get a tattoo, make sure you follow the tattoo aftercare instructions exactly.
- Autoclave – A machine that uses high pressure and hot water to sterilize equipment used for tattooing before and after each session.
- Body Suit – A full body tattoo that usually starts at the neck or collarbone and covers the entire body to the ankles, hands and feet do not usually get tattooed.
- Cadaver – Someone who does not talk while getting a tattoo.
- Carving – Another name for tattooing.
- Chopper Tattoo – The best online gallery for tattoo designs. Chopper Tattoo is the place to go if you are looking for a great tattoo design to print out and take to a local artist for inking to your body.
- Cockamamie – A design or decal prepared on special paper for transfer to another surface, temporary tattoos applied by wetting the paper backing and pressing against the skin.
- Cover up – The use of new tattoo art to cover an older one up.
- Custom – Artwork that has been designed especially for you or altered by the artist giving the tattoo.
- Dealers – Customers who try to bid down the price of their tattoo, like they are at an auction.
- Devotion tattoo – A tattoo that symbolizes love, death or that symbolizes just about anything.
- Flash – Legally reproduced sheets of artwork that hang on the walls of most tattoo shops and studio’s.
- Gun – The instrument made of a door bell assembly and a needle used for tattooing.
- Gang tattoo – Tattoos done to represent their gang affiliations.
- Human Larva – Children running around a tattoo studio.
- Ink – Another name for a tattoo or the process of tattooing.
- Irons – A tattoo aritst affectionately will refer to a tattoo machine as the irons.
- Jailhouse – A tattoo that usually is done with a make shift gun at home or in jail.
- Lady Luck tattoos – A beautiful woman usually placed in the middle of other signs of good fortune like a horse shoe, or rabbit’s foot.
- Meat – Someone who frequents the local tattoo studios and usually has some fresh ink healing.
- Old English – The most popular lettering font for tattoos.
- Pounding Skin – Yet another term for the tattooing process.
- Pussyball – A tennis ball given to customers to squeeze while getting a tattoo because they will not stop whining.
- Reactive tattoo – A tattoo that is done in the traditional manner using backlight reactive inks that are only visible under backlights.
- Ruin Tattoos – This design features a woman too but as the source of troubles and vices such as drinking and gambling.
- Scratcher - An awful tattoo artist that inks too deep or has an unsteady hand.
- Showcase – A customer who wears a lot of one particular artist’s work.
- Sleeve – A full arm tattoo that runs all the way around the arm to the shoulder.
- Stencils – Template of a tattoo that is applied to the skin so the tattooist has a basic outline.
- Tac – Another name for a tattoo, as in tac it on.
- The Look – The smile a customer gets after first looking at the finished tattoo and loving it.
- Tight – A way to describe a great tattoo.
- Tramp stamp – A tattoo done on the lower back of women.
- Tribal – Artwork of all one color usually designs without much detail.
- Works – Needles and tubes used by a tattoo artist.
- Wrastler – A person who is getting a tattoo who faints, but comes up fighting.
- Yo Man – A potential customer who comes in and says, “Yo man. I got $25. What tattoo can I get?”
A tattoo can be called ink or a tac.
A lower back tattoo on a woman is known as a tramp stamp.
This list of tattoo terms should help when asking questions at a studio. There are several terms used in tattooing that have been derived from other words or simply made up. If you do not understand something in the process of the tattoo, do not be afraid to speak up. The artist wants you to be 100% happy with your new tattoo and you should be well informed when choosing your artwork. The communication between you and the artist can mean the difference between a good tattoo and a mistake. Whatever you choose for your new tattoo take good care of it and make good decisions about not only the art but the placement of the tattoo.
Janis Joplin sported a wristlet and a small heart that were done by tattoo legend Lyle Tuttle.