Arabic Tattoos – The Three Most Embarrassing Errors

While Arabic tattoos can be aesthetically pleasing if the right calligraphy is used, there are a huge number of cases where neither the person getting the tattoo done nor the tattooist have the slightest idea of Arabic. The result is often disastrous: incorrect or ugly Arabic writing.

I’ll show you some bad examples and help you avoid some of the common mistakes. The same considerations apply equally to Persian, Urdu or Pashto tattoos, because these languages too use some form of Arabic script.

1 Disconnected letters

I guess the main culprits for this are people’s word processors that are not equipped to deal with the Arabic script. They don’t know how to interpret the letters and just represent them each individually. Arabic is a cursive script: the majority of letters are connected, like in handwriting. For example, below you can see the Arabic for “television” as it should be written:

The word "television" written in Arabic in the correct way

The word "television" written in Arabic in the correct way

And here the same word, but written incorrectly, with the letters disconnected:

The Arabic for "television" with disjointed letters

The Arabic for "television" written incorrectly with disjointed letters

Let’s see an example of this “in the wild”:

Disconnected letters

Disconnected letters

To be honest, I can’t even have a guess at what the word is supposed to mean.

2 Disconnected AND written from left to right instead of from right to left

Well, most people know that Arabic – unlike European languages – is written from right to left. However, some people don’t take notice of that and try to write Arabic from left to write.

Like this person here: disconnected-lefttoright

3 Offensive tattoos

This is probably the worst kind of mistake. While the other errors can make you look foolish or silly in the eyes of Arabic native speakers, having offensive words tattooed on your body can get you in a whole lot of trouble. Many Arab societies are highly conservative and will frown upon those insulting the culture or religion. Here are two particularly bad examples of this:

Kafir, or "unbeliever"

Kafir, or "unbeliever"

The Arabic reads كافر (kaafir) or “unbeliever” in English. This is an offensive term used derogatively for followers of religions other than Islam or atheists. Someone professing to be a kaafir himself would be seen as attempting to mock Islam and this is not taken lightly in most Arabic countries.

Can it get worse? Well, judge for yourself:

bitch

This lady seems to think it’s a good idea to have the Arabic word for “female dog” (bitch!) engraved on her body. Although the Arabic doesn’t quite have the same meaning as the English word “bitch”, nevertheless “dog” has a pretty negative connotation in the Arab world and is used to insult someone.

Avoid the mistakes

So, what should you do if you are thinking of getting an Arabic tattoo? Well, most importantly try to avoid the four mistakes I described. If you are really serious about getting an Arabic word tattooed on your skin, then you should consider learning the Arabic writing system. It’s much easier than it seems and it is well worth the time and effort spent on it to know with certainty that your beautiful Arabic tattoo is written correctly.

Apart from learning the Arabic script yourself, you should make sure the source for your Arabic tattoo is reliable and trustworthy. For example, you could get my Arabic Tattoos eBook or have me make a custom tattoo for you.

104 thoughts on “Arabic Tattoos – The Three Most Embarrassing Errors

  1. HI,
    I want to get a tattoo in Arabic and i was wondering if you can translate the words
    passionate and wisdom in the girl form. thank you so much.

  2. Great post! It’s very true that many of the Arabic tattoos out there have mistakes in them, and are sometimes completely meaningless as a result.

    This is why it’s always a good idea to use a professional service for translating and designing your Arabic tattoo. That way you know the language was translated by native speakers, and the writing designed by people who understand the subtleties of Arabic orthography and use software that support it.

  3. I just got my Arab boyfriend to translate for me as the phrase means alot to both of us . Theres bound to be someone out there you know that speaks Arabic . Ask around instead of paying for translations.

  4. Hi,
    I really want tattoo in arabic letters, if you can translate me : NO REGRETS and my name AJIDA please.
    thank you so much.

  5. Hello
    I am looking to get an arabic tattoo with the word wisdom. I have discovered that the arabic word is hikmah. Do u i have to have the AL in front to get it right or is just hikmah correct?
    Also are you able to include the arabic writing of the word.
    Thank you

  6. I would put the Arabic article “al” in front of it when you are talking about “wisdom” in general as an abstract concept.
    The Arabic spelling is:
    الحكمة
    In my new book I have included 6 different designs for this word.

  7. I wanted to get Jalas and ended up getting mamul……. can someone help me with arabic letters for jalas (as “enough is enough” for english”)
    Thanks

  8. hi,
    i wonder if someone who can write arabic would be good enought to let me know which is the correct translation of “Fighter” i have researched and found four different versions, could any one help please? المقاتل مقاتلة المقاتل مقاتل or have i got it completely wrong?
    also if anyone could jsut tell me if “fighter” would liklely cause offence to arabic speakers/writers.

    thank you very much

  9. مقاتل means fighter
    المقاتل is the same word just with the prefix ال in front of it (meaning “the” so it just says the fighter)
    مقاتلة means female fighter
    and the fourth word is exactly the same as the second one you wrote.

    Now I’m not a native Arabic speaker so you might want to double check this but I don’t think the word مقاتل is the best word to use. مقاتل comes from the root قتل which means to kill. I would translate مقاتل to mean like combatant or militant in a war more so than fighter in general.

    Maybe المجاهد or محارب would be a better word.

  10. Thanks for contributing Nick! You’re right: the word مقاتل (muqaatil) derives from the root قتل (q-t-l), but it does not necessarily imply “fight to kill”. For example, someone taking part in a boxing match might be referred to as المقاتل (al-muqaatil). The word مجاهد (mudjaahid) has religious connotations, as in “holy warrior” and محارب (muHaarib) implies someone engaged in war. All three words can be used to translate “fighter”, though.

    Ross, perhaps you could specify the sense of “fighter” you would like to convey? In the absence of any specification I would go with المقاتل (al-muqaatil) rather than with any of the other possible translations. Let me know if you need a tattoo design made using different fonts for this word. There are six designs for this word in my Arabic Tattoos eBook too.

  11. thank you very much for your replies.

    my sons name basically means “fighter” so that is the sense of what i am trying to translate.

    it would seen that المقاتل is the best translation from what you have said. on the translation i have the “J” shaped letter at the end on the word is further away from the “i” shaped letter, just a straight horrizontal line. however when i copy and paste this does not show up.
    just wondered if my translation is correct?

    Arabic seems just a beautiful language, and i just want to get it right! please excuse my ignorance and again thanks for your help!

    ross

  12. Dear Ross,
    I have now published a new blog post, with the word al-muqaatil in picture format. This way your PC won’t mess up the formatting when you copy and paste.

  13. I would like to have my name tattooed in arabic. Can you please translate: Idalia. Thank You So Much!

  14. Hello, I really want a tattoo that says happiness or one illustrating my horoscope (libra) could anyone help me. And another thing, doesn´t computer mess up the letters in arabic alphabet?
    thanks, for your help.

  15. Hi Maria! I’ve translated happiness and libra already. You can also find high quality tattoo designs for these two phrases in my Arabic Tattoos book. And yes, many computers don’t have the proper support for the Arabic script installed and will mess up Arabic writing. That’s why I always provide the designs in picture format. That way they won’t change their appearance when copied.

  16. Hi ArabGenie

    i am looking to get the words

    she flies with her own wings

    tattood down my spine and am looking for a reliable translation, could you do this for me? also is it possible to have the letters written vertically without messing up the writing system? thank you 🙂 hannah

  17. Salam Arabicgenie
    lol that’s one of the very few I know.

    I want to get stand in faith. is there a translation.

    I was original going to get walks with god but God isn’t something that should be on your foot.

  18. I would really like to know how ” I love my children” would be translated for a tattoo i wanna get going down my spine.. can you translate?

  19. Hi guys ! I wanna know the translate of:
    الحرية في المسيح
    Please help me 😉

  20. Ow I see !! And now, can you translate ” God takes care of me ” to arabic ?
    I wanna tatto it.

  21. الحرية في المسيح means ” The Freedom is In Jesus”
    I love My children translates as ” أحب أطفالي”
    she flies with her own wings should be written as “she Flew with her own both wings” to make the better Arabic phrase and then it would be “طارت بجناحيها”

  22. Thanks for the translation..but how would i write it going down? it for a tattoo going down my spine..please help someone :'(

  23. hi, love your blog and would be very grateful if you can translate ‘ michael me beloved’ in to arabic for me? thanks so much

  24. Khaliah, immortal is أبدي in Arabic .

    100% sure because I’m an Arab (:

  25. Sarah’s translation is correct. Note, though, that أبدي is best used within a context, as it is not clear whether it means “eternal”, “immortal” or “endless” when used on its own.

  26. Hi, Im trying to get “what goes around comes” around translated into the beautiful arabic writing …..so far I have lots of different designs but not sure which one (if any) are correct….Can anyone help
    1.ماذا غو رووند يأتي حوالي
    2. ما يدور حولها ويأتي
    3. ويأتي بما يدور حولها وحول
    4ما يدور حولها ويأتي
    5ما يجري حولها ويأتي حوالى

  27. Sorry The saying is WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND
    My inverted commas are situated wrong…..excuse me

  28. I am looking for a translation of “Nothing is true, everything is permitted.” Hassan-i Sabah has a lot of wisdom in those words.

  29. Can someone help me translate the word beauty, please,i really want it as a tattoo
    Thanks

  30. الجمال Can someone translate that for me to English, Thank you very much.
    I really need it

  31. Hi Yamil!
    الجمال
    means “beauty” in general as an abstract concept. However, it can also mean “the camels”. To avoid confusion, place a fat-ha sign above the third letter “djeem”:
    الجَمال

    There are six different designs for this word in my Arabic Tattoos ebook.

  32. Thank you very much, it was of much help.
    Hopefully i’ll get the tattoo soon and post pics of it.

  33. hey. I want doing a tattoo in arabic: LOVE FREEDOM……who can write in arabic caligraphy for me? thx a lot;)

  34. Hello,
    I was interested in incorporating my nephews name and birthdate in the piece. The problem is that I do not know how to speak or read Arabic. I was wondering if you have resources that could help me. I would feel like a fool, if I write the wrong word/name in Arabic. His name is Quinn Nyjah. His birth date is 02-09-2008. If you can help me translate from Englsih to Arabic, that would be amazing!

  35. I think this is total B.S. a tattoo is personal and you can do what you want with it. I personally have the four letters of my name “disconnected” that an artist put together in an art piece for me. It means a lot to me and I’m not writing an arabic book on my body, it’s ART, so why feel like I have to put these constraints on myself? it’s your body…do what you want with it!

  36. Kiba, I completely disagree with you.

    Of course, everyone is free to get the tattoos they want and it’s great that you like your tattoo. But remember, most people will be highly uncomfortable with a tattoo that is incorrect, nonseniscal or even worse doesn’t mean what they want it to.

    Knowing Arabic and then deciding that you want to have disconnected letters for artistic reasons (fully aware of the fact that in 99% of all cases this is a bad decision) is different from getting a wrong tattoo due to not knowing the language.

    Something being art presupposes that you are actually aware of the different nuances of the Arabic script and of its rules. Only then are you in a good position to judge whether you really want to break conventions for artistic reasons.

    Having a tattoo read “I’m awsome [sic!]” or “Everyone Elese [sic!] Does” or “Only God will juge [sic!] me” is a mistake in the vast majority of cases and an embarrassment most people would like to avoid. And so is an Arabic tattoo that is not spelt correctly or obviously simply a mistake that is the result of a failed copy-pasting attempt.

  37. Hi there, Was wondering if you could translate “forever strong” in beautiful Arabic writting:-)

  38. Hello

    Im going to vegas tomorrow for my bday and i would like to get a araboc tattoo. Can you translate “it is what it is”? thank you i will be checking constantly ArabicGenie: E-mail removed for privacy reasons.

  39. Good things to note! Quite embarrassing to have a mistake like that on you forever…

  40. الحياة مثل الفن دون ممحاة نكون حذرين ما ترسمه
    arab genie what do you translate that too? i beleive it is correct but just wanted to confirm, it was also too many letters for your custom design service.
    thanks!

  41. ما يدور حولها ويأتي حولها ‘
    Hi, is this What goes around comes around.?
    Thanks,
    Sarah.

  42. hi can you please translate mind, body and soul for me in arabic please.
    im getting the tattoo next month and i dont want it to be wrong, i also want it vertically so how does that work?
    thank you,
    Mariah

  43. Sallam can u please translate in Arabic for me
    Light of my heart soul Fathi,Ali,Aya
    Thank you

  44. Hi there,

    I would like to know if you could give me any help on this as I’m doing my research for the words “wisdom” and “strength” in Arabic and also the phrase “I walk with my Angels…”

    Many thanks

  45. Hi, I’m of Syrian descent and speak Arabic fluently, but have some trouble with translation between English and written Arabic (of course, dialect and written Arabic don’t easily match). I’d like to get a tattoo done in honor of those being killed in Syria at the moment, my home country.

    Could you please translate the following, trying to conserve the English meaning and poetry?

    The text is:
    Never forget your roots
    Never forget your people

    Thank you very much,
    Michael

  46. I was wanting to get a foot tattoo of the words “peace” and “love” written in arabic, however, knowing that the feet are generally regarded as dirty, I was wondering if it would be offensive to have those words scripted on my foot??

  47. Hi,
    I am interested in getting “to live and to love” in arabic as a tattoo. I noticed a lot of sites have it translated differently, and was hoping you could help me with finding the most accurate translation.

  48. Hi, i want to get a tatto that says “courage”, can you please tell me how to write it? because i dont want to get it wrong.
    Thanks!

  49. umm, why is it an error to get an “infidel” (Kafir) tattoo? if someone finds it offensive that i don’t believe in his religion, i very much want to offend this person.

  50. Can someone who know Arabic pleas translate into Arabic please:
    “Give to the one who denied you. Forgive the one who did you wrong”

  51. Alejandra …
    “courage” means “شجاعة”… and it’s a noun.

    flying sheep…
    You are saying like it would be okay if you saw someone has a tattoo says “atheist” on his body. Well, even if that is okay with you, “atheism” ( the person who doesn’t believe in god ) is a huge thing, and the biggest mistake ever, and atheists are considered as enemies.
    I hope I explained my idea.

    Amanda…
    Excuse my weak English but I can’t get the idea in the first phrase. The second one is “سامح الشخص الذي أخطاْ في حقك” that means “forgive the person who did wrong things to you”.

  52. ﺝﺍﺭ ‎(raj‎‎)is ths the true translation.plz gennie help me out

  53. can someone please translate “Forever and Always” for me? I’d greatly appreciate that

  54. I have spent time in the middle east and I absolutely am getting a kafir tattoo and an atheist logo to accompany it. I hope I offend people because there is nothing more offensive to common sense, morality, and intelligence than religion.

  55. “and atheists are considered as enemies.”

    And this is why you are immoral and wrong.

  56. @Muhammed: Nothing wrong with that, as long as you’re aware of the potential repercussions and are making a decision you won’t regret later on in life. If you wish to return to the Middle East at a later point, will you still be comfortable with a tattoo that will offend a large proportion of the population there?

  57. Hi!
    I want to get an Arabit tattoo and I’m wondering if my translation is correct for this sentence:
    “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional”
    I got this translation: ألم أمر لا مفر منه، والمعاناة اختيارية

  58. Sounds like Google Translate to me. Never a good idea for tattoos. You might want to invest some money into a proper translation.

  59. Genie, my boyfriend and I want to get matching tattoos with the word “nirvana” problem is..I cannot seem to find the correct Arabic translation for it..help?

  60. Hi!
    I want to get an Arabit tattoo and I’m wondering if my translation is correct for this word: “FAMILY”

    I got this translation: أسرة
    Kisses!

  61. Last year I had gotten the word ‘islam’ on the back of my neck. My boyfriend is and it was a spontaneous tattoo that we both had chosen for me. Nonmuslim, ignorant people gives me weird looks but muslims love it and compliments it!

  62. Hi I wanted the words ‘what goes around comes around’ translated into Arabic, I’ve tried so many people and the translation they’ve provided seems to be wrong. Please can you help?

  63. @ Phlillipa, it would be hard to get a good and accurate translation of your sentence, but you can use كما تدين تدان which means you’ll be treated as you treat others, or you’ll be judged the same way you judge others…

  64. Hi i wanted the words “Blessed by the heavens” translated into arabic. thanks !

  65. I can not download the book so i wa wondering if youcould translate in arabic “unbreakable love and faith “

  66. Thank you so much for this article!
    I would like to know if someone can translate this to Arabic for me : go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Thank you!

  67. Hello

    Is it possible for someone to translate “Embrace every moment” into Arabic..
    You’re help will be greatly appreciated!

    Thank you

  68. My uncle passed away a few years ago. He is Lebanese, and he was like my father. I’d like to get ” She flies with her own wings” tattooed on my arm in Arabic in his memory. Can you please translate this for me?

  69. Hello,the tattoo i made writes ما يدور حولها ويأتي حولها is it means what goes around comes back around ??

  70. Hi Max, I really like what you going on around this website. I got here by searching for celebrity tattoos.

    I’m looking at all these mistakes and I was thinking the picture you have of the wrist with the disconnected letters could be “je t’aime” written in Arabic letters. It could be intentional if that were the case.

    Hope that helps 🙂

  71. Hi Yara, very creative thinking! I hadn’t thought of that. It may well be the original intention behind that tattoo.

    However, even in that case the actual execution of the tattoo leaves much to be desired, i.e. the letters are not very clear.

  72. Hi my name is stefanie and I would like to get a tattoo of my name in Arabic but I dont not want to get the spelling wrong and I want to learn how to.say it can u please help me

  73. رفاك kāfir, so it is ‘offensive’ to use a perjorative name that is what I am. A creed demanding an intellectual, spiritual & social monopoly on the universe but being too intellectually brittle to even recognise its own language, priceless .

  74. Hey i was wondering if you could possible write “never forget your roots” or a message that represents that idea in arabic? Please and thank you 🙂

  75. Hi, i want to know of the translation is right.. Iwant to know how you write “accept yourself” in Arabic. Is this translation right? تقبل نفسك 

    Thanks!

  76. Hi, can u please translate the word “nomad”or “traveler” thank you

  77. Laura
    “never forget your roots” = “لا تنسى أبدا جذورك”
    but better to use this one
    “never forget your origin” = “لا تنسى أبدا أصلك”
    with the Arabic diacritics “لَا تَنْسَى أَبَدًا أَصْلَكَ”
    ————————
    Jeanine
    “accept yourself” = “تقبل نفسك”
    yes it’s correct
    with the Arabic diacritics “تَقَبَّلْ نَفْسُكَ”
    ————————
    viviana
    “nomad” = “traveler” = “رحالة”
    like in “the famous traveler Ibn Battuta” = “الرحالة الشهير إبن بطوطة”
    with the Arabic diacritics “رَحَّالَةٌ”
    ————————
    good luck 🙂

  78. I want to know how to say something. I need the phonetic spelling because listening to it is not helping. “I suffered, I learned, I changed.”عانيت علمت أنني غيرت

  79. احمل لك في قلبي

    I want to get a matching tattoo with my boyfriend in arabic saying “I carry you in my heart”. is this the correct translation, if not what is?! Thanks so much!

  80. @Jamie
    “I suffered, I learned, I changed” = “عانيت، تعلمت، تغيرت”
    with the Arabic diacritics “عَانَيْتُ، تَعَلَّمْتُ، تَغَيَّرْتُ”
    Arabic to Latin phonetics “‘eanytu, t’elmtu, tghyrtu”
    listen to the one whith diacritices using Google translation it’s helpful to learn how to pronounce it.
    ————————
    @Davina
    “I carry you in my heart” = “أحملك في قلبي”
    with the Arabic diacritics “أَحْمِلُكَ فِي قَلْبِي”
    “I carry you in the depths of my heart” = “أحملك في أعماق قلبي”
    with the Arabic diacritics “أَحْمِلُكَ فِي أَعْمَاقِ قَلْبِي”
    “I carry you always in my heart” = “أحملك دوما في قلبي”
    with the Arabic diacritics “أَحْمِلُكَ دَوْماً فِي قَلْبِي”
    for the boyfriend he use “أَحْمِلُكِ” instead of “أَحْمِلُكَ” ok

    I hope that I have been able to help
    good luck 🙂

  81. Yes, I wanted the phrase ” I suffered, so I learned, and so I changed ”

    but, I see it all over the internet if you search it you’ll find it. I want to make sure 100% it is right first.
    My second laguage is japanese, main one is english and I see how people get japanese tattoos that are soo wrong from a simple mistake.

    Thank you, I appreciate your help.

  82. Could you please translate “be your own kind of beautiful” in Arabic
    I want to make sure it is right, i’ve been trying to research it and i’ve read there is not a correct translation in Arabic.
    Your help would be greatly appreciated, thanks so much!

  83. kafir does not mean he folow another religion then islam it mean, he disbelieved in god or asociate another thing to god

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