45 Foreign Language Tattoos That Were Translated Inaccurately
Tattoos are now more popular than ever, and you can attest to that by simply going out on the street and seeing how many passersby have tattoos. There are tattoos in every shape and color — from large, colorful tattoos to small, monochromatic designs. While some people prefer to tattoo abstract designs, others prefer to get motivational/meaningful sentences and words inked on their bodies. Some want to look cool by tattooing things written in foreign languages — the thing about this type of tattoo is that you’re risking getting something weird engraved on your skin! In fact, there’s even a blog called Hanzi Smatter that is dedicated exclusively to translating weird tattoos written in Chinese! If you’re thinking of tattooing something in any language that doesn’t use the Roman alphabet, consult a native speaker beforehand to ensure that you’re tattooing exactly what you intended. Want to know why we’re recommending that? Check out these 45 foreign language tattoos that were completely lost in translation, and you’ll understand!
A madman’s love!
When this guy decided to express his love for his religion on his skin, he decided that it would be cool to get a tattoo in Chinese. He looked up some words online and headed to the studio to get his tattoo done.
When he came home, however, his wife questioned if his tattoo was correct. The guy said it was supposed to mean “God’s love,” — but when his wife consulted a native Chinese speaker, she learned that this Chinese character actually means “madman”!
7 charcoal grills!
Want to know an interesting fact? Even celebrities aren’t safe from tattoo fails! In 2019, pop superstar Ariana Grande released the song “7 Rings”, her second #1 hit. The song was such a success that the artist decided to get it tattooed on her hand!
The thing is: Ms. Grande forgot to check if she had translated the words accurately. After her tattoo was done, she posted a picture on Instagram — it was then that her foreign fans pointed out that she had translated “small charcoal grill” instead of “7 rings”!
That’s a good stage name!
Have you ever thought about being famous? Most of us have probably pictured what our lives would be like were we superstars. Some artists prefer to use stage names, and this girl accidentally tattooed a very good stage name on her arm!
This girl got drunk with her friends, and they dared her to get a tattoo done. She was so intoxicated that she complied with their dare and got this tattoo. The girl doesn’t remember what it was that she asked for, but this tattoo says “toilet demon,” and we’re pretty sure it’s not what she meant to get permanently inked on her skin!
Are you trying to say something?
When we go through a hardship, we may hear a word or a sentence that gives us the strength to keep holding on. Because of that, this word or sentence becomes so special that some of us want to get them tattooed.
This woman wanted a tattoo to remind herself of her beauty — but the result was not what she expected! Instead of saying “pretty,” the Chinese character that she got tattooed actually says “heavy.” We wonder if the tattoo artist was trying to say something!
But I’m American!
After overcoming an obstacle in his life, this guy wanted to get a tattoo that would remind him of his essence. He figured that a word resembling strength would be perfect, so he looked up the Chinese characters for “brave.”
Once his girlfriend asked him if he was sure that those characters meant “brave,” he decided to consult a native Chinese speaker. What he found out was that the tattoo artist misspelled the characters and wrote “Mexican” instead. The funniest part is that this guy isn’t even Mexican!
Kung Fu Jeff!
When we love something, we want to express that love to the world. One way of doing that is by getting a tattoo — this way, we’ll get to carry our passion with us wherever we go. This guy started practicing Kung Fu and decided to get those two words tattooed on his arm.
He looked up the name “Kung Fu” online and wrote down the Chinese characters. Unfortunately, he must have misspelled something because the translation says something completely different from what he meant: his tattoo is actually the Chinese for “Jeff’ instead of Kung Fu!
Don’t drink and get a tattoo!
Who doesn’t appreciate enjoying a night out with friends? It feels amazing to have a couple of drinks in the company of those who we love. However, some people tend to do not-so-smart things when they’re drunk — just like these two girls!
These girls, who are cousins, got drunk and decided it was a good idea to get something tattooed on them. Once they got to the studio, they thought it would be even better if they tattooed something in Chinese. The next day, when they were sober, they found out that they had gotten the words “taken advantage of” tattooed on their ankles!
A climbing warrior!
When this man decided to get something cool tattooed on his body, he thought that the word “warrior” would do him justice — he had persevered through a handful of difficult moments in his life, after all. However, his tattoo artist misspelled the Chinese character for “warrior”!
The artist wrote “climb” instead! Maybe this wasn’t that much of a fail. We can interpret climb as a positive thing, a word that means that this warrior should continue climbing toward his glory days. No? Okay then — at least we tried to see the bright side of this situation!
“Courage” is a beautiful word. It takes a lot to have courage, and not everyone has got what it takes to be considered a courageous person. This guy wanted to get the word “courage” tattooed on his body — but his tattoo artist had a different idea in mind.
Instead of writing what the client asked, the artist wrote “big mistake”! He probably noticed that the guy who wanted to get “courage” tattooed on him wasn’t worthy of this word. We’re just kidding — the client actually misspelled the Chinese character for “courage” and made a big mistake. Get it?
A sinful criminal!
Most people have a reason for getting tattoos. It’s actually quite unusual for a person to get a tattoo that doesn’t hold any meaning for them, although it can be hard to understand some of these meanings. This next guy, for instance, wanted to get the word “sin” tattooed on him.
While we’re not sure why someone would want to have “sin” on their skin, his wish didn’t come true. Instead, the tattoo artist misspelled the character and wrote the word “criminal.” We’re certain that this guy won’t be visiting a Chinese-speaking country in the near future!
A creative proposal?
Sometimes, couples feel so in love that they want to engrave that love on their bodies permanently. How do they do that? By getting matching tattoos or by tattooing something meaningful to the couple. This girl, however, took matching tattoos to a new level:
Although she admitted to being drunk when she got the tattoo, this girl said she loved the idea of dedicating a tattoo to her boyfriend. She doesn’t remember what she asked for, but this tattoo says, “I married a moron.” Some may even say that that was her way of proposing to her boyfriend…
Hey, these are my initials!
Do you want to hear a funny story? This guy thought it would be cool to get his three initials tattooed on his body — but instead of using the Roman alphabet, he decided to get them tattooed in Chinese.
One night he was hanging out at a club and noticed that some Chinese people were laughing and pointing at his tattoo. The next day, he decided to consult a native speaker — only to find out that, together, the three Chinese characters meant “female flatulence”! Poor guy…
When this girl was 18, she decided to get a matching tattoo with her best friends. Naturally, the first word that they thought of was “friendship.” However, they didn’t write down the correct Chinese translation of that word — and the result was definitely not expected!
Instead of saying “friendship,” the misspelled Chinese character actually said “sexual fantasy,” which was the furthest thing from what they had in mind originally. Luckily, these girls found out what was written on their skin and managed to fix this mistake later on!
Does creativity smell?
Working as an architect requires a lot of creativity. These professionals need to design functional buildings that look pretty at the same time — and they manage to accomplish that goal in the most creative ways. With that in mind, this architect decided to tattoo the word “creative” using Chinese characters.
Unfortunately for him, there was a translation error when he translated the word “creative” into Chinese. He wrote down the word “smell” instead and didn’t even notice! When he found out that he had misspelled his tattoo, it was too late to change it!
Yes, we know you can walk!
Do you know those times when you feel alone in life? You’ve probably felt at some point that nobody will be there for you when you need them. Well, when this next person felt that way, they decided to go over the top and tattoo this sentence: “I stand for many yet walk alone.”
However, this person probably used that popular translation website that sometimes gets things wrong, and her tattoo came out like this in Japanese: “I can walk alone.” This translation error completely changed the meaning and the impact of the sentence, didn’t it?
Okay, no need to be rude!
In life, there are moments when we feel like life can’t get any better. The guy in the next picture sure felt that way! He decided to head down to the tattoo studio so he could get the word “blessed” tattooed on his back.
When he returned home, his girlfriend questioned if the word “blessed” really needed that many characters. The guy compared his tattoo to the Chinese characters he had written on paper. As he did that, he realized that his tattoo meant “get out of here” instead of “blessed”! Was the tattoo artist trying to say something? Guess we’ll never know!
Perhaps, “love” is one of the most popular words ever. We say we love people, animals, and things all of the time, after all. That’s why it’s not surprising to know that several people get this word tattooed on their bodies.
The man in this picture was hoping to get the word “love” tattooed on his ankle. However, once he got home, his friend who spoke Chinese told him that the tattoo artist misspelled the word and actually wrote “dry/drying”!
Calm down, mister!
Let’s be honest: tattoos written in foreign languages look really cool, especially when they’re tattooed on someone’s back. The man in this next picture wanted to get something impactful on his back, so he chose the words “strong” and “brave.”
He used a translation tool to find the Chinese characters for those two words — but he forgot to consult a Chinese speaker to make sure he got them right. Instead, his tattoo ended up meaning “Destroy to become god-like.” We can only hope he’ll never unleash that wrath!
What an inspiring tattoo…or not!
Some days we just need to hear an inspiring word or two, isn’t that right? Life is hard, and it’s nearly impossible to feel giddy and positive every single day. This guy thought that tattooing something positive on his body would be a good idea to cheer himself up:
He was drunk when he got this tattoo, but he remembers asking the tattoo artist to tattoo something positive using Chinese characters. However, he didn’t know that the artist couldn’t speak Chinese and ended up writing “a waster” instead of a nice message. Safe to say that’s not inspiring at all!
Does peace come in a bottle?
If there’s one thing we all want in life, it’s peace. Who wouldn’t enjoy living a peaceful and blissful life? And we all know how life works, right? Sometimes, if we wish for something really hard, it becomes true. And this guy wished so much peace in his life that he wanted to get this word tattooed on himself:
The thing is: according to Chinese speakers, this character doesn’t mean “peace” at all — it actually means “bottle”! This translation error happened due to the character being misspelled. However, we wonder if this error was the universe’s way of telling this guy that his happiness will come from a bottle — maybe with a genie inside of it?
Maybe you should hear your tattoo!
One of the tips for those who want to get a foreign language tattoo is that you should consult a native speaker beforehand. However, we know that this isn’t a possibility for a lot of people. But there’s another option for you guys: check a dictionary!
This woman wanted to tattoo the words “I love you” on her back and dedicate the tattoo to her boyfriend. However, she forgot to check if the Thai translation she found online was accurate. When she finally managed to find the correct translation, she was disappointed to find out that her tattoo actually said, “Babylon is one of the world’s leading dictionaries”!
Reminder: Tumblr is not a trustworthy source!
Although it is not as widely used globally as other social networks, Tumblr is still pretty popular. Lots of people draw inspiration from Tumblr, as well as using this website as a way of recharging their energy by reading motivational posts. However, you can’t always trust Tumblr!
Some Tumblr posts aren’t accurate, although many people believe that they are. The tattoo in the picture above, for instance, is mistranslated as “appreciate life” on Tumblr. But what Tumblr users don’t know is that this Arabic sentence actually says “I am decaying” or “I am rotten”!
Lost in translation?
In some languages, there are certain words and phrases that cannot be literally translated. Hebrew is such a language. Want a tip? Make sure that your tattoo artist is aware of that, or else something like this could happen to you:
This girl wanted to tattoo the word “butterfly” in Hebrew on her back — but she didn’t know that her tattoo artist would make the mistake of writing it literally- sure the words “butter” and “fly” are written correctly on her back. However, the Hebrew word for butterfly is actually “parpar”! Because he mistranslated the words, her tattoo actually means “a fly butter”!
Who knows if she meant to say this!
Do you know why we recommend that you should consult native speakers before getting a tattoo in a foreign language? Well, we do that because we want to save you the embarrassment of finding out that your tattoo means something weird!
While we don’t know what this tattoo was supposed to say originally, if you translate it from Thai to English, it means “fresh spring rolls.” Now we can only wonder if this lady did that on purpose as a way to express her love for spring rolls…
Okay, we agree with her!
Can you imagine getting a tattoo in a foreign language and having no idea what it means? While that sounds a little bit crazy, it’s actually quite common. The thing is: as soon as you come across someone who speaks that language, chances are they’ll laugh at your tattoo!
This Chinese man was waiting for the plane to take off when he noticed that the woman sitting next to him had a Chinese tattoo on her ankle. When he read it, he had to hold back his laugh. The woman’s tattoo read “miso soup”! Is she wrong for having that tattoo, though? Miso soup is delicious!
Do some basic research!
If we stop to think about it, it’s really not that hard to do some research before you get a tattoo in a foreign language. We can find accurate translations without leaving your bed if we only use our phones!
However, it seems that some people are interested in trying their luck and getting a tattoo without first learning what it actually means. This guy, for instance, got this tattoo written in Chinese. When he came home, it took his girlfriend less than 5 minutes to find out that he had tattooed the words “turkey sandwich” on his arm!
We’re sure he didn’t mean this!
Imagine that you get a Chinese word tattooed on the back of your neck. One day you’re visiting China, and you notice that people are staring at you as if you did something wrong. When you finally ask what’s up, you find out something awful about your tattoo!
Instead of saying a positive word, you’re told that your tattoo actually means “gigolo”! That’s a pretty bad scenario, isn’t it? Well, that’s exactly what happened to this guy! He thought that this word meant something good — we guess he was pretty disappointed!
That’s a fun way of saying “Alexa”!
If you’re willing to spend more money on a tattoo, we’re sure your tattoo artist will design a custom-made piece of art just for you. The woman in the next picture did that, but her tattoo didn’t turn out as she expected!
The woman looked up how to say her name, Alexa, in Japanese. In addition to that, she also wanted to tattoo some leaves as a way of representing her country. What happened, however, was that the word that she got tattooed actually means “Wild grassland’. We can’t tell if the tattoo artist misspelled her name or if he thought she meant to tattoo that because of the leaves!
A common mistake!
You’ve probably heard one of these cliché phrases at some point in your life: carpe diem, YOLO, seize the day, among others. A lot of people get these phrases permanently inked on their bodies, but some people try to innovate by tattooing these phrases in foreign languages.
If you search the web for those phrases in Chinese, you’ll probably come across these characters: 生現. What many people don’t know is that those two characters mean nothing like that! The woman in the pictured tattooed that on her back, thinking that it meant “YOLO” (You Only Live Once”) only to find out that it means “to show up alive,” which is a pretty morbid thing!
This next tattoo fail is probably one of the funniest so far — and this picture alone should be more than enough to convince you to consult a native speaker before getting anything in a foreign language tattooed on your body.
When this man got this tattoo on his arm, he wanted to have the Chinese characters for the following words: faith, passion, and discipline. However, he didn’t do enough research and ended up tattooing these words: liver, record, and rash!
I’m the opposite of that!
By doing some elementary research, you can avoid embarrassment when you get a tattoo written in a foreign language. It literally takes a few minutes to look up the accurate translation of some words — but some people prefer to trust the internet blindly!
This woman wanted to tattoo the Chinese character for “lovely” on the side of her neck. What she didn’t know, however, was that she actually asked her tattoo artist to write “atrocious” instead! Maybe she’ll do better research next time!
That’s not what I asked!
In the next episode of “translation errors that could have easily been avoided with just a bit more investigation,” we bring you this picture of a foreign language tattoo that was misspelled. This girl wanted to express her love for her family by having the word “family” permanently marked on her skin:
However, she must have found the wrong translation, or maybe she misspelled the Chinese character. The end result of her tattoo was that it actually meant “unclassified name” instead of “family.” Let’s hope that her family won’t learn Chinese anytime soon!
Does love move ten thousand things?
We all know that love is a powerful weapon. If the world had more love, maybe there wouldn’t be as many awful events taking place all over. We all want love, and those of us who have love in our lives are very grateful. Some people are so grateful that they decide to get tattoos in inappreciation!
This guy and his girlfriend shared a beautiful love story, and he wanted to get a tattoo to pay homage to everything they had gone through. He looked up how to write the phrase “love conquers all” in Chinese — but his effort wasn’t good enough. The translation turned out to be completely wrong and his tattoo ended up meaning something like this: “love change 10,000 things overcome”!
Unusually wise, right?
We all agree that there are some compliments that are meant to be received and not given to oneself, right? For instance, if we label ourselves as “wise,” other people will think that we’re conceited, not that we’re actually wise.
And maybe that’s why this guy’s tattoo artist purposefully wrote a different Chinese character than the one his client asked. Instead of writing “wise” in Chinese, he wrote “unusual”! We’re just kidding: the tattoo artist didn’t actually do that. What happened was that this guy wasn’t “wise” enough to find a correct translation before getting his tattoo done!
The Dog Place!
It’s pretty common for parents to get their children’s names tattooed. Usually, people get their names tattooed in their mother tongue, but some parents want to be creative and appear fancy by doing that in a foreign language. This woman, for instance, chose to get her daughters’ initials tattooed in Chinese:
Well, at least she thought her daughters’ initials were written like that! When this woman had the opportunity of consulting a native Chinese speaker, she found out that her tattoo meant something entirely different: the two characters mean “place” and “dog,” respectively!
A serious error indeed!
If there’s one thing that we have learned from this topic is that lots of underage kids get tattoos these days. However, if we consider that most of them get something weird tattooed on their bodies, it’s safe to say that they should probably wait a few more years before getting all inked up!
This woman, for instance, got her first tattoo when she was 14 years old. When the tattoo artist asked what design wanted, she picked a random Chinese character out of a catalog. Want to know what it meant? “Serious error”!
I can take care of my boys, but not of my grammar!
When we say that you must do some research before getting a tattoo in a foreign language, we mean it. Other than weird phrases, a lot of people get meaningless sentences, phrases, and words permanently tattooed on their bodies.
For instance, this man wanted to get a tattoo dedicated to his sons. He asked his tattoo artist to write the sentence “I’m always looking after my boys” in Chinese. However, the translation they found online meant nothing leven close to that— it actually meant “old, that, me/my, child”!
Passionate, but make it moody!
When you decide to get a tattoo in a foreign language, you should always keep in mind that there are great chances of tattooing something weird or completely meaningless. If you do some research or consult a native speaker, on the other hand, you’ll certainly avoid mistakes like this:
This guy wanted to tattoo a word that described himself perfectly: “passionate.” However, he found an incorrect translation online and thought it was the right one. Once he had the opportunity of asking a Chinese speaker to translate it, he found out that his tattoo meant “moody”!
You got the wrong meaning!
If you mistranslate something and get it tattooed on your body, it means you’re willing to take the risk of getting embarrassed in front of foreigners. While tattoos that make no sense are not that embarrassing, tattoos that have double meaning are awful!
This guy looked up how to say “free spirit” in Chinese. The first translation that he found was the one he got tattooed. Little did he know that it actually meant “free of charge.” We certainly don’t want to know what this guy is offering for free!
Excuse me, I wanted a friend!
Do you know those love stories in which the pair are just friends until they realize that they actually love each other? Well, that’s the case of the couple who got this matching tattoo in the next picture. Cute, right?
We wonder if you will still find their gesture cute if you learn what it truly means. The couple wanted to get the word “friendship” tattooed to honor their relationship — instead, the translation they found actually meant “bad looking” in Chinese!
Is this really what that movie is called?
There’s a certain movie franchise that most people will recognize the name of even if they haven’t watched it. It’s that popular action/racing franchise called “Fast and Furious.” Recognize it? Well, this guy loved those movies so much he wanted a tattoo dedicated to them!
However, proper nouns aren’t translated in the same way as common nouns, and movies have their specific translation in different languages. Apparently, this guy didn’t get that memo and translated “Fast and Furious” word by word — and his tattoo ended up meaning “Fast and Foolish” instead!
Strong like a small animal!
Motivational words, sentences, and phrases are quite common ideas for tattoos. Many people enjoy having these positive words permanently tattooed on their skin as a way of reminding themselves of their strength. However, if you don’t get the right tattoo, it’ll mean nothing!
This guy, for instance, wanted to tattoo the words “strength” and “courage” on his arm. Unfortunately, he found the wrong translation online and believed it was correct. Once a Chinese-speaking friend saw his tattoo, this guy learned that his tattoo actually meant “small animal”!
As you’ve seen, not all tattoo fails are actual fails. Some of the tattoos we’ve shown you in this article were actually kind of okay, even if they didn’t mean what the client wanted them to mean. Here is another example of these “okay” tattoo fails:
When asked by a Chinese person what did her tattoo mean, this woman told them that it was supposed to read as “respect and success.” The Chinese person chuckled and said that her tattoo actually meant “mother and child are precious things”! That’s not so bad.
Do you need some money?
There’s this one thing that people should try to understand: some English words cannot be literally translated into other languages. Each language has its own vocabulary, and that’s why we shouldn’t blindly trust automated translation tools such as Google Translate.
This devout man wanted to tattoo the phrase “Trust in God”. However, he didn’t realize that the Chinese words for “God” and “trust” were different than the ones he found online. In the end, he found out that his tattoo actually meant “Mighty bank loan”!
That’s my favorite food — so what?
Remember the picture we showed you of a woman with the words “miso soup” tattooed on her leg? Well, here’s a sister tattoo to that one! Although it’s impossible to tell if this guy actually meant to get these specific words tattooed on his arm, his tattoo is quite delicious!
While he was in Thailand, this guy got a tattoo that means “chicken rice.” Some people have said that it was probably a prank that his tattoo artist pulled on him. But other people will say that he actually meant to tattoo those words because that’s his favorite dish!