25 Memento Mori Tattoos That Offer a Morbid Reminder

Memento mori is a Latin phrase meaning “remember you must die.” Memento mori paintings have existed since antiquity after the phrase was coined by the Romans. In general, these paintings, and today’s memento mori tattoos, would be a portrait with a skull but other symbols commonly found are hourglasses or clocks, extinguished or guttering candles, fruit, and flowers. It’s fascinating that these tattoos are using the same symbols and visual metaphors that have been used in paintings and other visual art for thousands of years!

This does not mean that memento mori tattoos are boring and stuffy! In fact, because they deal with death and the passage of time, they are rather thrilling, even chilling. We wanted to get a better understanding of the types of memento mori tattoos there are in the world and what sorts of trends and ideas people are coming up with today. We found some truly incredible designs that will make you want to take advantage of the life you still have left to live! Get some ink inspiration below!

In the Cards

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Let’s kick things off with a mildly popular memento mori tattoo design that finds a skull on a card that looks similar to a tarot card. It’s easy to understand why card tattoos like these are popular. They look equal parts playful and creepy.

Skull Moth

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Skull moths are popular tattoos on their own but we saw fewer of them fully dedicated to the memento mori theme. Here is one such example which reads as very cool and unique. The sharply angular lettering for the phrase looks very much one-of-a-kind.

Traditional Hourglass

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Hourglasses like this one are popular traditional tattoos. What makes this a bit fresher is to turn that classic hourglass design into one that is all about death. If you’re looking for a memento mori tattoo that marries old and new, something similar could be a great option for you.

Coffin

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Coffin tattoos can be really fun with some folks going in the direction of a joke while others, like this one, take a more somber note. We think a coffin works well for a memento mori tattoo and you could get really creative with yours with a character emerging from your coffin or even a symbol of death sitting on top of it.

A Creepy Take

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We told you hourglass memento mori tattoos are popular and we were not kidding! Here is another example that finds the glass inside the mouth of a skull. This is one of the creepier designs but we still are very fond of it.

Take a Closer Look

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We find a skeletal hand holding a live rose in this memento mori tattoo. Take a closer look and you will see the phrase seemingly etched onto the bones of the fingers. This one is beautiful and slightly romantic.

Delightfully Unusual

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Here is one of the strangest memento mori tattoos we encountered. We find a swimmer paddling toward a large skull that has the phrase, memento mori, on it. There’s a shadow of the swimmer beneath which only confuses moire about the setting of this design. Keep it weird, folks!

Light and Dark

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We are big fans of framed tattoos and we think they have the potential for being excellent memento mori tattoos. We really enjoyed the contrast that these two rectangles make against one another. It feels balanced and very fresh.

Goth Goodness

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This person has skipped the memento mori phrase and has, instead, just gone with some creepy imagery to get the point across. We find a crowned skull held by a mysterious hand here. If you want something moody, a similar design could be right for you.

Neo-Traditional

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For this person, a memento mori tattoo comes in the form of a bottle of poison. It is a neo-traditional design that employs motifs and images from classic tattooing and pairs it with some newer techniques. We feel the artist struck a wickedly good balance in this design.

Wounded Knight

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In this memento mori tattoo, we find a modestly-sized knight design that has been pierced by several arrows. It’s a call back to medieval art that often depicted memento mori in a number of narratives.

Crowned

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We enjoyed this memento mori tattoo for the way it’s been framed by natural and botanical elements. Any visual metaphor that compares the living with the dead proves a wise decision for these types of tattoos.

RELATED: 35 Killer Skull Tattoo Ideas That Are Equal Parts Creepy & Cool

Spent Candle Motif

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Since medieval times, the half-spent and spent candle motifs were popular in memento mori imagery. We must admit for this tattoo, the person has taken that idea to the next level. Thinking outside the box always pays off for your memento mori tattoo.

Dancing With Death

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A serpent is impaling a dancing skeleton in this memento mori tattoo. How creepy is that? This is one of our very favorite designs on this list. It has been beautifully tattooed and totally delivers the goosebumps.

Falling Apart

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Be sure to explore other types of imagery that can symbolize memento mori. A vase has been snapped in two in the above example and between those parts we find the phrase tattooed in red ink.

Watercolor Memento Mori Tattoo

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Watercolor tattoos are a huge trend today. Here’s one example that also happens to be a memento mori tattoo. Color is splashed about as we see pieces of a clock, a rose, and a skull. If you are looking for a tattoo with tons of energy, you should consider going the watercolor route.

The Visit

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This memento mori tattoo takes the old themes and plays with them a bit. Instead of a spent candle, we find the posts of the bed looking like lit candles. The skeletal character is similar to others on this list but take a look at its abdomen and you will see a curious opening. How do you read it?

The End

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Well, a book saying “the end,” does feel like a pretty solid way to express the memento mori sentiment. We shared this tattoo with you expressly for that idea.

Coined

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The memento mori coin contained three of the symbols associated with the phrase since antiquity. A flower in a vase represents life, a skull represents death and the hourglass time. Memento mori tattoos of coins are not as common as you might think so feel free to riff on this idea.

The Comic

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“We’ve got a lot of time or maybe we don’t,” is the caption paired with this memento mori tattoo that finds a skull drinking a cup of coffee. Darkly funny, this is one of our favorite tattoos on this list.

Symbols

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As with the coin, in this memento mori tattoo, we find the three most common symbols associated with the phrase: a flower in a vase, an hourglass, and a skull. These look like really cool micro tattoos and you can go in that direction if you like it.

X

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We find mirrored skeletons with their arm bones forming an X in this memento mori tattoo. We thought this one felt fresh as well as rather timeless. Feel free to live that skeletal fantasy with your design.

Both Ends

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A black candle burning at both ends is such a brilliant idea for a memento mori tattoo. We get the sense of life with the burning of the flame, time from the candles burning on both ends, and ultimately death because this candle is quickly being spent.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: 25 Grim Reaper Tattoos That Make the Macabre Marvelous

Cosmic Slice

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This memento mori tattoo is one of the most curious on the list and wanted to share it with you to show that the possibilities are endless. We find a statuesque head that seems to be splitting in two from in between the eyes.

Life Meets Death

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Finally, we share the most popular memento mori tattoo design. We saw this more than any other memento mori tattoo and it was not even close. A dead hand meets a live one in a scene reminiscent of Michelangelo‘s The Creation of Adam. You will be in extremely good company if you choose something like this.

There you go! We hope you found these memento mori tattoos to be as exciting and creative as we did. If you would like to keep discovering dramatic and intriguing tattoos, please keep reading for even more skulls and creepy stuff!

Take a Look at These Skull Tattoos to Get Inspired for Your Very Own.

Rockabilly Skull Tattoo

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Motorcycle meets skull in this very intriguing Rockabilly-inspired skull tattoo. Take a look at how the artist has managed to capture the fire’s glow by showing it warming the color of the skull. What a wild ride!

Photorealistic & Creepy

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This skull tattoo appears so lifelike (deathlike?) that it’s unnerving. The artist clearly has an eye for texture and shading both of which are employed here to great effect.

Like an Etching

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Tattoos that mimic other forms of visual art always appeal to folks as they appear stylish and clever. In this skull tattoo, we find a style that’s similar to etching.

Head of Roses

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If you would like to soften up your skull tattoo, consider adding floral elements. Not only will they look great but they will also act as a juxtaposition between life and death.

Skill

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This is a singular tattoo that is completely original and unlike any of the other skull tattoos on this list. We find a portrait in a portrait that’s actually rather unnerving.

Creepy-Cool

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It’s hard to tell what material this skull is supposed to be made of. Smoke? Molten skin? We’re not certain but we did love the way this one turned out. You basically have two lanes with skull tattoos: creepy or humorous.

Pineapple Skull

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Here’s an ultra-colorful design that imagines a skull and a pineapple that have become one. The paradise imagery really makes this design stand out from the rest on this list.

Slithering

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Skull tattoos with snakes squirming through them are a very popular design in this genre of tattoo. In fact, you will see a couple more on this list before it’s finished.

Softened with Florals

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See how lovely florals look with skulls. Here’s another example of a design that marries life and death.

Owl

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We find an owl with a skull tattooed together in this mildly popular design. People really enjoy the pairing and it’s easy to see why.

 Caveira

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We find a cute little candy skull here with a watercolor effect for added visual interest. If you’d love to celebrate your Mexican heritage, this would be an excellent way to do so!

Traditional Style Skull Tattoos

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In this unique design, we find the skulls tattooed in a traditional fashion. Skulls like these have been part of artists’ flash portfolios for decades.

A Real Cup of Joe

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This is one of the most playful skull tattoos on this list. We find our skull submerged in a coffee pot. Sometimes it does feel like coffee is the only thing keeping you alive so we imagine this design speaks to a lot of people.

Grim

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Fear the Grim Reaper. Notice how the shape of this tattoo accentuates the natural shape of the upper arm and shoulder? Make sure to consider the placement of your tattoo for the best results.

Chrysanthemum

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Here’s a chrysanthemum skull tattoo that shocks in vibrant blue and red. Skulls blooming from flowers are pretty popular among tattoos today. However, you mostly encounter them popping out of a rose.

Dino

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Not in the mood for a human skull? Time to get Jurrasic with some dinosaur skulls. We think this triceratops looks rather handsome.

The Living Dead

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In this zombified tattoo, we find an “undead” skateboarder getting some air. If you are passionate about a sport you play, consider something similar for your skull tattoo.

Coffin Creature

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Coffin tattoos are popular these days and we find a rather demonic skull coming out of this one. This was created with a whole bunch of black ink that looks moody and dramatic.

RELATED: 75 Neck Tattoos That Will Blow Your Mind

Cicada

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Everyone’s least favorite bug, cicadas, can be found in this skull tattoo. We want to die every time we see one too.

Free the Dead

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Here’s a bug we can get behind. We find a skull pattern on the wings of a butterfly here with the word “freedom” underneath. It’s a curious pairing but we think this tattoo turned out beautifully.

What Lies Beneath

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We find matching tattoos here in the form of crosses that reveal skulls inside. It’s pretty darn creepy but we must say it looks great.

Freaky Fun

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Here’s a tattoo coverup that completely masks what was there before. Choosing dark imagery with plenty of heavy ink has really improved on what was there before.

Third Eye

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Here’s a rather strange skull tattoo that finds a third eye gazing from the cranium. Mysterious and slightly witchy-looking we feel this one is a winner.

A Pirate’s Afterlife For Me

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We fine one lone eye staring back at us from this pirate skull tattoo. We expected to see more like this but it was the only example of a pirate we stumbled across.

Poison

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Who is drinking wine with a skull in the glass? We don’t know why but we’re not mad about it. Perhaps this tattoo is supposed to symbolize poison.

Casually Grim

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Here’s a fun one that finds the Grim Reaper enjoying a warm beverage. We guess that even he needs to take a break every so often.

A Deer

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How beautiful is this autumnal European mount deer skull tattoo? We think the warm inks chosen here make it stand out for all the right reasons.

Psychedelic

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Yikes! We believe we’re looking at a woman’s face splitting in two to reveal a skull. You’ve likely never seen anything like it because this is a truly original design. Work with a tattoo artist and you can conceive of designs equally as weird.

The Lovers

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These two “kissing” skull tattoos seem to form a heart shape. It’s as romantic as it is unsettling.

Noir

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This person has chosen to go heavy with the black ink with skin coming through to form the details of the design. It’s a very cool one and unlike all the skull tattoos on this list.

A Scary Beauty

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This skull tattoo with a snake is beautifully done. Even though it is scary, the snake and skull both have delicate details that make them really appealing.

Neon

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Here’s yet another snake and skull tattoo that finds some neon green shining through. It’s proof that the right choice of ink is crucial in how the final product appears.

Anatomical

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Ah! We find an anatomical head with the skin ripped away on half of it and with the muscle gone from the other. Nightmare fuel for certain!

Glitch

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The glitch trend is a big one right now with people getting the effect for all sorts of designs. Isn’t it trippy? We imagine a human skull would look equally as stunning.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: 33 Bold Chest Tattoos for Men

A Morbid Masterpiece

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We leave you with a skull tattoo that seems to be all about time. The hourglass paired with the skeletal remains looks foreboding. The artist has done an excellent job applying this tattoo with so much detail and restraint.

We hope you feel inspired by these skull tattoos and will consider something similar for yourself. As you have seen, there is no right or wrong way to go about your tattoo design so work with an artist you trust to come up with the most inspired and original design for your ink. Happy tattooing!

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