Tattoo Slang 101

Here's What Tattoo Slang Terms Mean

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There are a lot of slang terms you will hear in and outside the tattoo shop. Some of them are primarily used by tattoo artists to describe their experiences, and some are used by enthusiasts as slang terms for their tattoos. Either way, the tattoo community has broken the rules and come up with their very own vocabulary!

Slang for Tattoo

  • Ink - or getting some ink.
  • Tat - for those too lazy to spell the whole word.
  • Tac - tac it on!

Tattoo Equipment Slang Terms

  • Gun - term for tattoo machine, heard primarily from scratchers and loathed by artists.
  • Irons - term of affection for the tattoo machine used by artists.
  • Works - needles and tubes.

Tattooing Slang Terms

  • Carving - as in carving out some phat lines.
  • Slinging Ink - hopefully not too much slinging!
  • Pounding Skin - another term makes it sound much worse than it is.
  • Grinding - grind out some tribal.
  • Kickin' it Into Third - picking up the speed on the fill cause they know you can handle it.
  • Know You're Getting a Tattoo - doing the underside of the arm.
  • Airbrushing - when the ink sprays all over your pants.
  • Tight - as in phat, tight tattoo work.

Tattoo Customers and Browsers Slang Terms

  • Wrastler - one who faints and comes up fighting.
  • B-Back - the customer who says, "I gotta run to the ATM, I'll be back" right at closing time and never returns.
  • Cadaver - customer who refuses to talk to the artist during the entire process.
  • Human Larva - small children running around the tattoo shop.
  • Showcase - the customer who wears extensive amounts of an artist's work.
  • Meat - Locals who frequent the tattoo shop and always have a fresh piece still healing
  • Geeking - Acting without thinking how stupid you will be.
  • Tenderfoot - self-explanatory, someone new to tattooing.
  • Michaelangelo - the customer who asks for "victory red", "infantry blue", or "purple passion" and tells the artist where and how to shade.
  • Yo-Man - Potential customer who walks in the studio saying, "Yo man, I got $20. What can I get?" or "Yo man, I NEED a tattoo. What should I get?"
  • Dealers - Potential clients who like to wheel and deal on the price of their tattoo, and try to bid the artist down like they're at an auction.
  • Closers - people who know you close at 10 p.m. and take your last customer at 9, but walk in at 9:30 expecting you to stay to do a three-hour piece.

Other Slang Expressions from the Tattoo World

  • Goo - lotion or salve to put on the tattoo as it heals.
  • Pussyball - tennis ball given to the customer who won't stop whining.
  • Squicked - grossed out, disgusted as in being squicked about your new piercing because it looks like it hurt.
  • The Look - The tell-all smile when the customer first sees their new tattoo.