Memento Mori Tattoo Designs For Men

Top 61 Memento Mori Tattoo Ideas – [2020 Inspiration Guide]

Few uses of symbolism are as old as memento mori, nor are there many others so richly rooted in so many cultures and traditions. A memento, or “reminder” of death, the memento mori has been used for thousands of years as a reflection on the virtues of introspection and humility.

That meaning goes back as far as ancient Rome, when an ordinary man would follow behind a triumphant general on his victory parade, whispering to him that he was only a mortal man after all.

Its use was resurrected as an art form during Europe’s medieval period, where it played a part in art and literature, and was a popular element among knights in showcasing their virtues of liege loyalty and humility.

Today, the memento mori is a popular theme in tattoos for men, but it retains much of its well-established meaning. Though it might make use of such symbols as a shroud, a skull, or a grim reaper, it is not a morbid or macabre symbol. Instead, it serves as a reminder of our shared destiny: we are all mortal men, fated to die, and should be concerned with the betterment of ourselves and the improvement of our character while we yet live.

1. Ambigram Memento Mori Tattoos

3d Text Memento Mori Mens Inner Forearm Tattoo

Ambigram Collar Bone Male Memento Mori Tattoos

Ambigram Memento Mori Mens Outer Forearm Tattoo Design Inspiration

Ambigram Memento Mori Mens Rib Cage Side Tattoos

Ambigram Memento Mori Mens Tattoo On Inner Forearm

These tattoos use stylized text to create interesting designs called ambigramsAn ambigram is “calligraphic design that manages to squeeze two different readings into the selfsame set of curves.” 

The effect created using this interesting approach to script can leave the observer twisting their head, trying to read the different flipped and reversed text, like a tongue twister for the eye. There is also an added intellectual layer to these designs: no matter which way you look at it, we are all heading towards death.  

2. Memento Mori Skull Tattoos

Creative Skull Memento Mori Mens Upper Arm Tattos

Awesome Skull Memento Mori Banner Male Inner Forearm Tattoo Inspiration

Shaded Memento Mori Skull Male Upper Arm Tattoo

Skull With Memento Mori Male Back Tattoo Ideas

Pocket Watch With Skull And Memento Mori Banner Mens Inner Forearm Tattoos

Masculine Memento Mori Mens Half Sleeve Skull Tattoo Ideas

Shaded Guys Memento Mori Skull Half Sleeve Tattoos

Perhaps the image most strongly associated with death and mortality, skulls are perfectly suited to incorporate into memento mori tattoos. Many of the oldest artistic representations of this concept incorporated skulls and skeletons thanks to their deep associations with death and being instantly recognizable. Thanks to the variety of styles and approaches that different artists take, skulls can be incorporated in many unique and eye catching ways.  

3. Simple Script Memento Mori Tattoos

Man With Cool Memento Mori Script Tattoo Design On Inner Forearm

Carved Bone With Memento Mori Words Mens Arm Tattoo

Carved Memento Mori With Skull And Skeleton Hands Guys Thigh Tattoo

Cool Memento Mori Script Tattoo Design For Guys On Forearms

Decorative Ornate Font Memento Mori Male Word Outer Forearm Tattoos

Decorative Font Memento Mori Inner Arm Bicep Tattoos For Guys

Cursive Memento Mori Male Upper Chest Tattoo Design

Paint Splatter With Memento Mori Words Mens Small Forearm Tattoos

Guys Memento Mori Memorial Inner Forearm Tattos

Script is a great way to get straight to the point in a tattoo, and when it comes to a phrase like, this script is absolutely necessary. The different styles and schools mean that there are hundreds of typefaces and fonts to choose from, ensuring that there is a script out there for every sensibility, although the ornate and highly stylized Chicano scripts are some of the more popular and impressive choices.  

4. Trash Polka Memento Mori Tattoos

Trash Polka Memento Mori Male Leg Tattoo Designs

Female Portrait With Memento Mori Text Mens Lower Leg Abstract Tattoo Ideas

Creative Abstract Memento Mori Mens Arm Tattoo Designs

Mens Forearm Memento Mori Trash Polka Tattoos

Trash Polka Mens Memento Mori Half Sleeve Tattoo

Trash Polka is an interesting style that developed in Germany and is characterized by the use of realistic imagery, often portraiture, with graphics, script and the effect of splattered and smudged ink (the trash in trash polka). This collage style is perfectly suited to memento mori tattoos, with their ability to tell a story and incorporate disparate imagery into a unified composition.  

5. Black and Gray Memento Mori Tattoos

Skeleton Mirror Memento Mori Mens Stomach Tattoo

Cross With Memento Mori Mens Upper Back Tattoo Designs

Grenade Memento Mori Mens Shaded Banner Upper Chest And Shoulder Tattoo

Knights Helmet Memento Mori Mens Leg Calf Tattoos

Memento Mori Norse Guys Foot Tattoos

Man With Ocean Waves Memento Mori Banner And Skull Forearm Tattoo

Mens Memento Mori Skull With Wings Chest Tatoto

The classic style and subdued sensibility of black and gray tattoo work is perfectly suited for these mementos to our limited time in life. Through the use of precise line work and a gradation of gray tones, a talented artist can create images in a variety of styles: from hyper-realistic portraiture, to designs that are more reminiscent of lithographs from the turn of the century.  

6. Hourglass Memento Mori Tattoos

Hourglass With Wings Memento Mori Mens Upper Chest Tattoos

Forearm Tattoo Of Memento Mori With Black Crow And Hourglass For Guys

Hourglass With Skull Guys Memento Mori Forearm Tattoos

Mens Memento Mori Broken Hourglass With Skull Arm Tattoos

Another powerful symbol of the transitory and fleeting nature of time, the hourglass is perfect to incorporate into these tattoos. From vibrant color tattoos that jump off the skin, to pieces that take a more subdued approach, hourglasses add a visual element that provides plenty of creative space for artists and can add a lot to a memento mori inspired tattoo. 

8. Black Ink Traditional Memento Mori Tattoos

Guys Memento Mori Upper Arm Graveyard Scene Tattoo

Male With Tattoo Of Memento Mori Skull And Books On Forearm

Skeleton Hands With Flower Memento Mori Male Arm Tattoos

Memento Mori Mens Upper Back Tattoo Ideas

Dagger Through Rose Memento Mori Lower Leg Tattoos For Men

Skeleton Looking At Hourglass Mens Memento Mori Inner Forearm Tattoo Designs

These black line work tattoos take an approach that is evocative of the hand cut lithographs that held the original Christian images of memento mori art. Through a bold application of precise lines, these artists are able to create unique pieces that utilize common themes like gravestones, skulls and skeletons to perfectly capture the sentiment behind this ancient concept.  

9. Traditional and Neo Traditional Memento Mori Tattoos

Hand Holding Skeleton Mens Memento Mori Arm Tattoos

Old School Guys Memento Mori Hourglass Rose Flower Tattoos

Rose Flower Heart Memento Mori Guys Upper Back Script Tattoos

Rose Flower With Skull Memento Mori Male Arm Tattoos

Shoulder Memento Mori Skull Traditional Mens Tattoos

The bold lines and fully saturated colors of American traditional and neo-traditional tattoo work are on full display in these interesting designs. Many of the design elements that are common in these styles—skulls, daggers, and roses—are expertly applied in these pieces helping to capture the depth of this concept while creating eye catching and unique tattoos.  

10. Minimalist Script Memento Mori Tattoos

Mens Back Of Neck Memento Mori Typewriter Font Tattoos

Finger Memento Mori Tattoo On Male

Small Simple Guys Memento Mori Tricep Tattoo

Unique Font Memento Mori Male Outer Forearm Tattoo

Unique Memento Mori Guys Words Back Tattoo

Wrist Memento Mori Mens Tatoos

Back Of Leg Memento Mori Male Tattoos

Cursive Memento Mori Mens Handwritten Font Tattoos

Script Memento Mori Cursive Male Words Forearm Tattoo

Memento Mori Remember You Must Die Mens Thigh Tattoos

As we have seen, there are hundreds of different typefaces and fonts to choose from, and while many people prefer the flourishes and decorative elements of some of the more stylized scripts, some people have simpler tastes. These artists use precise lines a subdued approach to create these tattoos that perfectly capture the sentiment behind memento mori through the use of this restrained script work.  

Memento Mori Tattoo FAQs 

Where did memento mori originate? 

The concept of memento mori is an interesting one, although it isn’t surprising that this focus on death grew out of the classical philosophy of Socrates and Plato. In fact in his recounting of the death of Socrates, Plato asserts that all philosophy is “about nothing but dying and being dead,” and in many ways he is correct.  

Given our limited time on earth and the ephemeral nature of life, death provides man with a lens through which to view our deeds and actions with a laser focus. Death imparts every menial and mundane task with an importance and urgency once we have the clarity to see that each moment is remarkable and unique, only to be lost to the sands of time.  

After the Christianization of the ancient world this concept became focused on the importance of humility and service, as defined by the teachings of Christ. This is where the majority of the memento mori images and designs came from, however this concept is not limited to Western traditions.  

The Tibetan Buddhists have a practice called lojong, which is a meditation exercise based around coming to terms with the finite nature of the human body and the Day of the Dead in Mexico is a synthesis of Christianity and existing traditions of precontact Native populations.  

While the term and definition of memento mori arose out of the Classical period of Western thought, the almost universal expression of this idea suggests that to recognize our mortality is distinctly human. It truly is no wonder that people continue to use art—especially tattoos—to create everyday reminders of the fleeting nature of life.  

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