80 Small Tattoos for Men – Unique and Meaningful Designs

by John Griffith

Small, minimalist tattoos are all the rage at the moment, and it’s hardly surprising – they are easy to cover up, which makes them perfect anyone, even working professionals. Besides, tiny tattoos can be just as meaningful as large ones – often, a single symbol can convey a lot more than a large, complex design. Some people erroneously believe that little motifs are better suited for women, but that couldn’t be further from the truth! There are plenty of amazing and clever small tattoos for men, and in this article we have collected 80 designs to prove it!

In addition to our lovely gallery, we have included explanations of the meanings behind some of the most popular small tattoos, as well as several template sheets with loads of ideas! So, without further ado – let’s get started!

A miniature version of Hokusai’s wave – one of the coolest small tattoos for men we’ve seen so far!

small tattoos for men, tiny version of hokusai's wave, tattood within a circle in black, on a man's lower arm

How to choose the best small but meaningful tattoos for men?

If you are having trouble deciding what kind of tattoo to get, it might be helpful to make a list of all the things you feel strongly about. This can include your religion, a cause you support, a person you love dearly, a place, or a favorite quote from a book or a movie. Once your list is complete, ask yourself which of these things best describes you. Which one would you like to wear for the rest of your life? Although many people have a spontaneous approach to tattoos, getting one should by no means be treated lightly!

Once you decide on a design, it’s time to choose where on your body you’d like your tattoo to be. This too is an important choice. Although employers are getting more and more open-minded with each year, there are still companies who frown upon inked up candidates. If you plan on pursuing a career in business, law, academia or the like, it’s advisable to avoid tattooing visible areas of your body and head, such as the fingers and top of your hands, and your neck and face. Inking your ankles, wrists, and lower arms is an excellent choice, but many people also go for the torso (e.g. near the ribs or chest), thighs, or lower legs. All of these can be easily hidden if need be.

The anchor is an enduringly popular tattoo motif, which symbolizes steadfastness and security

anchor tattoo in black, surrounded by the words the and art, on the lower arm of a slim man, small tattoos for men

What is the symbolism behind these simple tattoos with meaning?

In the old days tattoos were something reserved for outcasts and misfits. Apart from sailors, bikers and prisoners, not many people dared to get one, let alone more. Therefore, classic tattoo designs were often rough and manly, signifying concepts such as bravery (lions, eagles), strength (pumas, sharks), and overcoming death (skulls). The more romantic tattoo aficianados got inked up with the names of their sweethearts or moms, while the superstitious chose motifs that were believed to have protective properties (anchors) and to ward off evil spirits (snakes, scorpions).

Nowadays there is a lot more variety when it comes to tattoo designs and their symbolism. While classic motifs still pop up every now and then, they are merely a small fraction in a wide sea of available options. Tattoos with religious connotations, for example, have been growing more and more popular in recent years. Elements inspired by Buddhism, Taoism, and Judaism frequently appear on the bodies of celebrities and ordinary folk alike. Designs referencing folklore are also a big hit, especially those alluding to Nordic and Celtic legends.

Ocean wave and mountain peak – a cool idea, also suitable for couples

two arms with a tatto near each wrist, an ocean wave, and a mountain, small tattoos for men, done in black ink

And now it’s time to enjoy our small tattoos for men gallery! You will find 80 amazing suggestions, plus lots of info on meaning and symbolism. Have fun, and don’t forget to check out our Lifestyle Section for more tattoo and body art ideas!

Rough masculinity meets delicate art

rose with four leaves, very small in size, tattooed in black, on a hand, small tattoos for men, near the thumb

We love this small but stylish neck tattoo

man dressed in a pale grey sweater, with his back to the camera, a black triangle tattoo, with a smaller, white reversed triangle inside, small tattoos for men, on the back of his neck

Sunset in paradise

couple of palm trees, and a sunset over a sea, tattooed in a diamond shape, small tattoos for men, on a guy's ankle

And now – a few template sheets with classical tattoo motifs

assorted simple and small tattoos for men, drawn in black, on a white template sheet, a skull and a hammer, a crow and a spider, mountains and a wolf, and many moreWhich one is your favorite?

small meaningful tattoos, drawn in black, on a white template sheet, crown and cat, pineapple and lightning, and many others

Tattoos inspired by the vintage sailor aesthetic

selection of small meaningful tattoos, drawn in black, on a white template sheet, open book and cocktails, flowers and insects, and many others

The Valknut – a Nordic symbol associated with Odin, the god of thunder

valknut tattoo in black, three intersecting triangles, a symbol of the nordic god thor, small meaningful tattoos

two images showing examples of small meaningful tattoos, a cat playing with a planet, and person, standing under a tree

forearm tattoos, compass in yellow and grey, seen in close up, tattooed on a person's wrist

Bird tattoos symbolize freedom and lightness

birds in flight, tattooed in black, on the back of a slim, but athletic young man, small meaningful tattoos, symbolizing freedom and lightness

star shape containing a drawing of a starry sky, with a planet, and some purple and light blue nebulae, tattoed on a person's arm, forearm tattoos

diamond shape drawn in black, containing a rose, with four leaves, forearm tattoos, on the upper side of a man's wrist

Isn’t this clever design cool?

paper plane in grey, with a black outline, forearm tattoos, underneath it is a grey shadow, shaped a real plane, best meaningful tattoo for men

small tattoos with meaning, a skull with a top hat, tattooed in black, on a man's ankle, penny placed next to it for scale, memento mori

collage featuring four examples of forearm tattoos, a simple drawing of planet with a ring, a quote and a city scape, a heart and a cross

The Vegvisir is another popular Nordic symbol, hailing from modern Iceland. It is believed to protect its wearer from getting lost at sea

icelandic symbol with a round shape, known as vegvisir, small meaningful tattoos, on the right hand side, above the chest, of a man seen in close up

tiny palm tree, tattooed in black, near the wrist of a man's hand, forearm tattoos, seen on a black and white photo

nature-inspired small tattoos with meaning, a bear-shaped watercolor-effect tattoo, decorated with multiple fir trees, in dark blue, on a light blue background

classical art-inspired forearm tattoos, the hands from michelangelo's the creation of adam, tattooed on a person's arm, with black ink

Good things come to those who wait – sometimes it’s good to have a reminder.

patience written in a black, fancy cursive font, tattooed on the inner part of a man's arm, below his elbow, forearm tattoos to inspire you

flaming match done in black ink, near another tattoo, on a person's ankle, small tattoos with meaning, on a greyscale photo

cool arm tattoos, a bracelet-like black tattoo, going around a man's arm, just below his elbow, featuring multiple trees and clouds

Enso – a popular Japanese Zen symbol. It represents the universe at large, as well as separate concepts such as enlightenment, strength, and elegance. Alternatively, it can signify minimalism and finding beauty in simplicity

tattoos with deep meaning, japanese calligraphy zen symbol, enso meaning a circle, tattooed in black, on a man's arm, symbolizing the universe, strength and enlightenment

geometric line art of a wolf's head, tattooed in black ink, on a person's arm, minimalistic and creative design, cool arm tattoos

pair of flying birds, above a three with several branches, black ink tattoo, on a person's foot and ankle, small tattoos with meaning

The wheel of dharma (or Dharmachakra) – a sacred Buddhist and Hinduist symbol

dharmachakra tattoo in black, the wheel of dharma, a sacred symbol in hinduist faith, small tattoos with meaning, on a person's shoulder

if not now then when, tattooed in black, on a man's ankle, small tattoos with meaning, seen in close up

cigarette held by a hand, with a long manicure, with the word no written bellow, cool arm tattoos, done with black ink

This minimalistic tattoo is a nod to childhood, and a reference to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s classic Le Petit Prince

planet with a ring, and three stars, simple but cool arm tattoos, inspired by antoine de saint-exupéry's classic, le petit prince, on a person's wrist, best meaningful tattoo for men

vintage austronaut's head, with a helmet, tattooed in black ink, inside a square, on a person's lower leg, small tattoos with meaning, black and white image

doodle tattoo in black and red, depicting a drum kit, cool arm tattoos, done on a person's upper arm

Triskelion (also known as Triskele): a symbol of death and rebirth also associated with motion. Additionally, it is the official symbol of the island of Sicily in Italy, as well as the Isle of Man in the UK

life and rebirth, symbolized by a triskele tattoo, done in black ink, with white details, small tattoos with meaning, above a man's chest

realistic small gun drawing, with lots of detail, tattooed on a man's upper arm, cool arm tattoos, freshly made

three small tattooes of different trees, done in black ink, on a man's ankle, seen in close up

Small tattoos for men inspired by nature

animal and geometry inspired, cool arm tattoos, a fox head and a triangle, a rocket and a coil, a cat's face, a wave and a mountain, a penrose triangle

meaningful tattoo ideas, a simple drawing of a smiley face, tattooed in black, on a person's foot, near his sole

lines and triangles, in black and grey, and a single black dot, symmetrical cool arm tattoos, on the inside part of a man's arm, just below the elbow, best meaningful tattoo for men

simple design featuring three tall, and narrow pine trees, tattooed in black, on the back of a person's ankle

close up of a hand, with a silver ring on the ring finger, and a small black anchor tattoo, on the forefinger

We love this cute and creative alien abduction tat!

alien abduction motif, a flying saucer beaming up a human, very small tattoo, done in black ink, meaningful tattoo ideas, on a man's ankle

bracelet-like tattoo, with a chain pattern, going around a man's ankle, and done in black ink

lower arm tattoos, a bird in flight, tattooed in solid black, on the wrist of a man, wearing a long sleeved shirt

An arrow head pointing at a mountain. Normally, arrows signify new beginnings and looking at the future. In this case, it may mean that the wearer is an avid mountaineer

black minimalistic arrow head, pointing upwards to some mountains, tatooed in black, on a the wrist of a slim man, lower arm tattoos

intersecting triangles in black, tattooed on a man's hand, valknut nordic symbol, associated with the god odin, cool small tattoos for guys

extreme close up at a person's wrist, showing a life line tattoo, done in black ink, simple and minimlaistic design

The trident of Poseidon is another very popular symbol, which has been appearing in tattoos more and more often lately. In Ancient Greece, Poseidon was the god of the sea and storms. His trident represents strength and endurance. 

poseidon's trident with a circle, and a triangle, tattooed in black ink, meaningful tattoo ideas, seen in close up, on a person's back

king of spades symbol, tattooed in black ink, on the arm of a man, lower arm tattoos, seen in close up

wave tattooed in black, on a man's ankle, seen in close up, on a black and white photo, very small tattoo

The semicolon symbol is used to raise awareness about suicide prevention 

finger print and a comma, making up a semicolon, meaningful tattoo ideas, raising awareness about suicide prevention

tiny minimalistic wave, tattooed in black ink, on the left hand side of a person's wrist, lower arm tattoos, seen in extreme close up, cool small tattoos for guys

boat with big sails, on a wavy sea, tattooed in black, inside a rectangular shape, lower arm tattoos, worn by a man in jeans and a t-shirt

Just be – an inspiring and reassuring quote

the words just be, written in black handwriting, tattooed on the back of a man's lower leg, inspirational and motivating

stylized shark fin tattoo, decorated with flourishes, and cross hatched patterns, tattoos with deep meaning, bravery and overcoming hardships, on a man's ankle

small symbolic tattoos, paw print with claws, tattooed in black, on the side of a man's neck, signifying strength and bravery

The Shamrock is an ideal choice of tattoo for people with Irish heritage, who would like to honor and celebrate their roots

celtic symbol tattoo, shamrock in black and white, with decorative flourishes, lower arm tattoos, for irish guys

map of the world, decorated with circles and arrows, tattooed in black, on a person's ankle, meaningful tattoo ideas, freedom and travelling

half of an arrow, simple and minimalistic design, tattooed in black ink, on a person's lower leg, meaningful tattoo ideas, symbolizing a fresh start, looking at the future

Another brilliant minimalistic design

letters with clear and sharp design, spelling the word alive, tattooed on a man's arm, lower arm tattoos, seen in close up

outline of the jesus the redeemer statue from rio de janeiro, incorporated in a life line, decorated with the letter m, tattoos with deep meaning, on a man's shoulder, cool small tattoos for guys

simple anchor in black, tattooed on a man's hand, close to his thumb, small symbolic tattoos, security and stability, black background

A design, commemorating the victims of 9/11

life line incorporating the new york city skape, as it was before 9/11, featuring the statue of liberty, the twin towers, and the empire state building, tattoos with deep meaning, on a man's arm

sign of batman, tattooed in solid black, on a man's wrist, lower arm tattoos, simple shape of a bat in flight

Flying arrow – a symbol of moving on and looking forward

thin arrow with a stylized design, decorated with a circle and a crescent shape, tattooed on a man's upper arm, tattoos with deep meaning, fresh starts and looking at the future

seven lines in black, tattooed on a man's lower arm, simple and minimalistic design, seen in a black and white photo, small symbolic tattoos for guys

another version of an anchor tattoo, in black with white details, small symbolic tattoos, steadfastness and family, on a man's foot, close to his ankle and sole, deep meaning tattoos for guys

Memento mori – remember death

anatomically correct human skull, tattooed in black and grey, on a man's wrist, tattoos with deep meaning, memento mori, photo in black and white

templates for small tattooes, drawn in black, on a white sheet, meaningful tattoo ideas, crossed keys and dinosaurs, dogs and weapons, and many others

unique symbols resembling letters, tattooed in black, on a man's wrist, small symbolic tattoos, with minimalistic designs

An awesome bald eagle tattoo. This majestic bird symbolizes strength, bravery, and dignity, and is also the national bird/ animal of the USA

bald eagle flying, decorated with circles and thin arrows, tattoed on a man's arm, bravery and new beginnings, tattoos with deep meaning, deep meaning tattoos for guys

tattoos with deep meaning, and in time this too shall pass, written in black cursive, tattooed on a man's wrist

round logo featuring the letters l and p, for linking park, tattooed in black, on a man's wrist, small symbolic tattoos, seen in close up

John Griffith

John Griffith is a young, passionate journalist. Writing has been John’s hobby ever since he was a boy. He has worked in some of the UK’s most successful news portals over the course of his professional career but found his forever home at Archzine.