Error in Translation: 40 Photos of Foreign Language Tattoos Gone Wrong - too cool 2 be true

Error in Translation: 40 Photos of Foreign Language Tattoos Gone Wrong


Art comes in many forms, and one of these is tattoos. Tattoos are a great way to show off your creativity and individuality, which is why it’s always fun to see what people have tattooed on their bodies. What happens, though, when something goes wrong?

Sometimes, people make mistakes during the translation process and end up with unintentionally funny messages. This got us thinking, why not share some of our favorites that we’ve come across through the years? We’ve trawled through the archives to bring you some of the most hilarious tattoo translation mistakes ever made. Read on to enjoy plenty of laughs. 

The Big Mistake

Getting a tattoo is a decision that most people take seriously. They usually mean a lifetime commitment to the design you choose. For this reason, most people like to think long and hard about what to get before they go ahead with the tattoo.

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This guy right here wanted to have the word “Courage” inked on his skin. You may think it was intentional, but it wasn’t. It turns out this guy misinterpreted the symbol for courage and showed the wrong design to his tattoo artist. Maybe they aren’t familiar with Chinese characters — and that’s a big mistake!

God’s Love

This guy right here did the right thing before heading out to get a tattoo. He did some research about what he wanted to ink on his skin. However, he missed the most important thing about having a foreign tattoo: knowing the meaning behind it. 

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Keep WatchingHe might have taken a screenshot of the image and shown it to his tattoo artist. When his wife saw it, she had a feeling it wasn’t quite right. So, she sought a native Chinese speaker, and she was surprised to learn that her husband’s new tattoo means “Madman.” What’s even more hilarious is that the poor guy thought it meant “God’s Love.”

I Want It, I Got It

No one is safe from this type of incident, even celebrities. Ariana Grande wanted to have seven Rings tattooed on her skin. Like the lyrics of her song – “I want it, I got it” – Ms. Grande went to get tattooed. 

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Her song, 7 Rings, was a huge success, but her tattoo was a tiny failure. As she flaunted her new tattoo, her fans who understand Chinese broke the bad news. Her new tattoo says “Small Charcoal Grill” instead of “7 Rings.” We feel sorry for Ms. Grande and hope she can break free from this – thank you, next.

A Drunken Mistake

It’s no surprise that when you’re intoxicated, you have poor judgments, which is why we should avoid getting drunk tattoos. This girl was out with her friends when she got ridiculously drunk. After she sobered up, she discovered that she’ll have a permanent reminder of this reckless night.

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Her friends dared her to get a tattoo while they were drunk. Of course, she didn’t think twice about it. Unfortunately, she wasn’t clear enough with her tattoo artist, so now she’s stuck with a message that translates to “toilet demon” in English

What’s Heavy?

People often want words that inspire them or reflect their personality on their skin. Tattoos can serve as inspirational reminders for our journey through this mortal coil. There are many words that people choose to have branded on their skin that ultimately define who they are.

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This woman wanted to boost her confidence every day and remind herself of her beauty, so she asked to have the word “pretty” tattooed on her. However, the Chinese character she chose actually translates to “heavy.” As you can imagine, she wasn’t pleased when she learned the truth!

Brave Man

We often see tattoos in Chinese characters. We don’t know why, but many people love this trend. As for this man, he wanted to tattoo a Chinese character that means “brave” on his skin. Chinese characters are very complex, so you need to research them to understand their meaning.

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As mentioned, this man wanted Chinese characters that meant “brave” tattooed on his skin. However, he had no idea that the Chinese characters he chose were incorrect. His new tattoo reads “Mexican” instead of “brave,” which is even more amusing given that he is an American.

Who’s Jeff?

Have you ever wanted something so badly that you felt entitled to tell everyone about it when you got it? This man did. He started Kung Fu, and he fell in love with it to the point that he wanted to ink it on his skin.

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He looked up the Chinese characters for Kung Fu and wrote them down. After getting his new tattoo, he had no idea what was waiting for him. Instead of having Kung Fu on his skin, he received ink that reads “Jeff.” Whenever he meets Chinese people, they’re curious to know who this Jeff guy is. 

It’s the Climb

This man wanted to get a tattoo that symbolizes him as a strong person, so he chose the word “Warrior.” A tattoo can be a form of art that depicts one’s personality. They are a form of self-expression. However, you must get the message right for this to be true!

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Before tattooing the Chinese character on his skin, he didn’t comprehend that the symbol meant “climb” rather than “warrior.” It’s not the worst-case scenario since you may translate the term climb into something more meaningful, such as continuing to move ahead to accomplish your goals.

From Zero to Criminal Real Quick

People don’t usually get a tattoo for no reason. There’s almost always a meaning behind it. For this man, his desired tattoo was quite unusual. He wanted to have the word “Sin” tattooed on his skin.

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While the reason behind it is unclear, he didn’t get what he wanted that day. Instead of getting the word “sin,” his tattoo artist misspelled it and created the word “criminal,” which, by the way, is more bizarre than the first tattoo idea.

Oops! She Didn’t Mean It

The idea here was good. This woman wanted to have a matching tattoo with her husband. Couples often do that to express their genuine love for each other. It’s sweet. However, this girl made the decision while she was drunk.

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We don’t know what she wanted the tattoo to say, but the result of her drunken mistake is this tattoo that says, “I married a moron.” Imagine what it would feel like to learn the true meaning of your ridiculous new tattoo. That would’ve been the most epic fail of the year.

Another Drunken Memory

Do not ever decide on a tattoo when you’re drunk because there’s nothing that can compare to the strain, anxiety, and regret you will feel when sober. As a general rule, alcohol impairs your judgment, but these girls forgot that because, well, their judgment was impaired by alcohol!

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They decided it was a good idea to get a tattoo that very moment. As these girls got clearheaded from the alcohol, they were surprised to learn that the tattoo in Chinese characters translated to “taken advantage of.” Hopefully, they will not allow themselves to be taken advantage of again in the future.

Not the Best Idea

Using your initials as a tattoo is alright if you use the English alphabet. This guy thought he’d get creative and write his initials in Chinese characters. He didn’t expect what ended up happening when he showed the world his new tattoo.

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One night, as he was roaming around, he noticed some people staring at him smirking. They looked at his tattoo and then his face as he observed them. Curiosity hit him, and he asked them about the meaning of his tattoo; it turns out it means “female flatulence.” 

The Horror of Being an 18-Year-Old

When you turn 18, you begin to experience things you couldn’t before. You are the legal age to do things like drinking and driving (though, of course, never together). It is when so many people start to feel like an adult. This group of friends decided to celebrate by getting matching tattoos.

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Everything was fine until they showed their new tattoo to other people. Instead of the word “friendship,” the symbols tattooed on their skin translate to “sexual fantasy.” This group of friends must have been flustered when they learned the tattoo’s meaning. Fortunately, they found a way to fix the problem. What a relief!

The Smell of What?

This man, a professional architect, sure has something that some of us lack — creativity. He decided it would be great to tattoo something that represents him as an architect, so he searched for the Chinese character for the word creative. 

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However, he didn’t double-check it when he wrote the character out for his tattoo artist. He later realized his mistake – instead of the word creative, he inked on his skin the word smell. It’s not too bad, but we hope he can do something to fix it.

I Can Walk Alone

We have all been in a situation where we feel like we’re alone in life. There’s a feeling of emptiness even though many people surround you. This person decided to have “I stand for many yet walk alone” tattooed on his body in Japanese. 

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The meaning, however, was lost in translation, and the actual meaning of the Japanese characters is “I can walk alone.” Do you think it changes the meaning of the message this person wanted? Maybe, or maybe not. We hope that this person can still enjoy life to the fullest because they deserve it.

An Unexpected Result

This man decided to have a tattoo that says “Blessed” in Chinese characters, so he researched it and found one he thought was the right character. He went to see a tattoo artist and told him what he wanted. 

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He later realized that his new tattoo meant “get out of here” when translated to English. He saw the paper where he wrote the Chinese character he wanted and discovered that the artists misspelled it. We’ll never know what happened, but maybe the tattoo artist was mad at him or something.

Dry Love

The word love and a heart that symbolizes love are among the most common tattoos in the world. It’s pretty common to spot people with love-themed tattoos since we all want to experience love in our lives.

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This man wanted the Chinese character for love inked on his ankle. Everything was fine until his roommate, who can speak Chinese, told him it was misspelled. Instead of the word love, he got something that approximated dry/drying. 

The Best Word to Express Strength and Bravery

Many people try to incorporate something personal into their tattoos. As for this man, he wanted to put the words “strong” and “brave” on his back. He decided to use Chinese characters for these words since it looks good on paper.

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Using a translation tool, he got what he thought were the Chinese characters for those two words. However, after getting his new tattoo, he discovered that the Chinese characters written on his back meant “Destroy to become god-like.” 

What a Way To Inspire Yourself

We would all love to feel inspired on a daily basis. This man decided he needed something to encourage him to do better in life. So, he went and got tattooed one night when we were drunk. As we always say, alcohol and tattoos are not a good mix! 

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He wanted to have an inspiring tattoo but failed for two reasons: he went to a tattoo artist who could not read Chinese, and he wasn’t careful about checking the symbol. The funny thing is that the words inked on him were “a waste” – it’s not exactly incorrect! 

Happiness in a Bottle

Being able to live in peace is something most of us want. As we all know, we attract what we put out into the world. This guy wanted to have peace in life so badly that he decided to ink the word on his body.

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He wanted to tattoo the Chinese character for “peace,” which is cool because this type of tattoo is popular. The problem is that this man does not speak Chinese, so he had to rely on a translation program to get the symbol. However, he misspelled the letters and tattooed the word bottle instead of peace.

When Life Tells You Something Important

This person wanted the phrase “appreciate life” tattooed on his body. Perhaps he is a lover of the Arabic language. Whatever the case, he chose Arabic as the script for his new tattoo. Unfortunately, this person was not expecting what came next.

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This person was browsing Tumblr for inspiration when he came across a photo of Arabic writing and decided to use it for a tattoo. This individual mistook the phrase to mean “appreciate life,” but Arabic speakers informed him that the real meaning of the phrase is “I am decaying” or “I am rotten.”

What Does It Mean?

Aside from Chinese, Japanese, and Arabic, many people use Hebrew in their tattoos. It looks fascinating and attractive to the eye. This woman fell in love with the language and so decided to use it in her tattoo.

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She wanted the word “butterfly,” but the idea was lost in translation. This woman eventually discovered that her new tattoo meant “fly butter,” which serves as a warning to everyone to double-check the characters they choose, especially if they are unfamiliar.

Spring Rolls: A Serious Special Relationship

Do you know the number one rule of using a foreign language in your tattoo? The number one rule of getting a tattoo in a foreign language is to research or ask a native speaker for a more credible translation to avoid complications and regret. 

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We have no idea why this woman got that tattoo or what she intended to convey with it. She has a Thai tattoo on her back that says “Fresh Spring Rolls.” Do you believe it’s a mistake, or was it planned? Maybe she just loves spring rolls. 

Another Tattoo About Food

If you think Fresh Spring Rolls was something, wait till you see this one. A passenger who was waiting for his plane to depart noticed the tattoo on the ankle of the girl next to him. It was a string of Chinese characters. He was amazed when he read it because it means “miso Soup.”

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Maybe this woman loves miso soup so much that she decided to ink it on her ankle. As we all know, most people get tattooed about something personal to them. Maybe that’s the reason she did that. Miso soup is delicious, after all.

The Wild Grassland

It’s common to tattoo your name on your body. It’s a form of self-appreciation. You want to show that you’re proud of who you are and the name you’ve been given. That’s all well and good, but what if you use another language and translate your name?

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This woman desired to get her name tattooed on her body. Her name is Alexa, by the way. She hoped to have her name written in Japanese characters. When everything was finished, she discovered that the meaning of her new tattoo was Wild Grassland, not Alexa.

You Only Live Once

YOLO – the famous abbreviation of the phrase “you only live once” – has become more popular with the growing number of young adults trying to live their lives to the fullest. It’s not surprising that two out of five people you know have this tattooed on their bodies.

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This girl thought it was an excellent idea to have YOLO tattooed on her back in Chinese. She thought it meant YOLO, but unfortunately, her tattoo means “To show up alive.” The number of people having this type of experience just because they didn’t double-check their tattoo first is crazy.

Perfectly Imperfect

We all have values that we hold onto while living in this world, such as integrity and honesty. It’s what people see when they look at you, and some people like to make their values extra clear by having them tattooed on their bodies.

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This guy wanted the words “faith, passion, discipline” tattooed on his arm. He also requested that it be written in Chinese characters. Perhaps this individual didn’t hear enough stories about the potential dangers of using a language you don’t speak in your tattoo. He also didn’t investigate, which resulted in the tattoo saying “liver, record, rash” on his arm.

I’m Not What You Think I Am

By now, you should understand that research is essential for using a foreign language on your body. Sadly, this woman didn’t get the memo and neglected the essential research before getting her new tattoo.

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She wanted to have the word “lovely” inked on her skin. However, because of her lack of research, she ended up receiving a symbol that means “atrocious.” We hope she’ll do better research next time and that this incident will serve as a reminder to everyone. 

Just Who Am I?

Let’s be clear here – you won’t have to experience a terrible tattoo failure if you simply do your due diligence. If you just look through the internet before getting a tattoo, you’ll probably get the proper translation of the word you want.

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This woman desired to get the word “family” tattooed on the back of her neck. Unfortunately, she received the term “unclassified name” since she was too lazy to do any research. We hope she learned from her mistake and can now fix her tattoo.

Love Conquers All

Love is just a four-letter word, but it has the power to overwhelm us with feelings. For most people, love is more than just a strong feeling – it’s also an attitude about life in general. It’s about being willing to work through tough times and find joy in the simple things in life. 

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This couple chose to get “Love Conquers All” tattooed on their bodies. However, they misspelled the Chinese characters, resulting in a different outcome than they had anticipated. Instead of “love conquers all,” their tattoo reads, “love change 10,000 things overcome,” which doesn’t make sense.

Truly Unusual

How would you react if you saw a tattoo that meant “unusual?” Maybe you’d simply agree that the person is unusual and move on with your life. This man wanted to have a tattoo of the word “wise” using a Chinese character, but he got the word “unusual” instead.

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He wanted the word wise as a reflection of himself, but he wasn’t wise enough to double-check the characters before handing it over to his tattoo artist. How ironic. Of course, as we’re learning, this type of behavior happens all the time. Always conduct some research before getting a tattoo!

It Says Place Dog, But Where?

Initials are a good idea for tattoos. They are personal, they are accurate to the wearer, and they are cool. This woman decided to get her daughter’s initials as her new tattoo, but she wanted to use Chinese characters. We can already see the mistake coming. 

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We all know what happened to the last person who did that, right? Yes. The result wasn’t what she expected it to be. Her new tattoo means “place” and “dog.” All those who can read Chinese are left wondering where she wants to place the dog (and why).

A Serious Error

This woman got her first tattoo when she was 14 years old, and it wasn’t a good experience. Most people take a while to decide what they want their tattoo to look like, and they spend time thinking before finalizing everything. However, this young woman just randomly picked a Chinese character in a magazine, and then viola – she had her first tattoo.

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The truth is that she had no idea what it meant. So, when she got the opportunity to look up the meaning, she was shocked to discover that it meant “Serious Error.” What a coincidence. We hope she learned her lesson from this experience.

I’m Passionately Moody

This guy must have been a little moody when he got his tattoo because instead of the word “passionate,” he got the word “moody.” Jokes aside, this guy didn’t bother to do research when he decided on what his new tattoo would be.

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What he did was just use a translation tool online, and that’s it. We always say this, but never forget to do some backup checking of the characters you want to use for your tattoo. If you must get a tattoo in a language you don’t understand, just make sure you don’t end up with a mistake like this one.

A Free-spirited Man

There are two things that could happen if you use a foreign language in your tattoo. One is that it looks cool. The second is that you are at risk of being embarrassed if the translation is wrong. 

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This man wanted to get “free-spirited” tattooed on his arm. However, he got the words “free of charge” instead. Wanna know why? Because he didn’t follow the first rule – to research or ask a native. This is a simple yet very impactful thing for you to do before getting a tattoo.

The Movie Called Fast and Foolish

The Fast & Furious franchise is one of the best movie series about cars ever made. It’s a fun set of films, with action, comedy, and great cars that are beautifully designed — no wonder this man wanted to have the phrase tattooed on his body.

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This man translated Fast and Furious word-by-word, but his efforts were in vain because he got the translation wrong. His new tattoo actually means “Fast and Foolish.” We hope he’s still loving the movies despite the failed tattoo on his back.

Even Small Animals Are Courageous

A few tattoo ideas are widespread in society, such as names, encouraging slogans, and other personal expressions. This man wanted to tattoo the word “courageous” on his body. However, the outcome was not what he had hoped for due to insufficient research.

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Instead of the word “courageous,” his new tattoo means “small animals.” Yes, he is walking around with a tattoo that means “small animal” on his shoulder. How would native speakers react to this one? We’ll say it again – double-check before finalizing your tattoos!

Indeed, Mothers and Children Are Precious

This tattoo was technically a failure, but it wasn’t all bad. This woman wanted “respect and success” to be written on her back. Though she did not obtain what she wanted, the result is acceptable.

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She asked a native to translate her tattoo for her, and the native said that it means “mother and child are precious things.” It’s not bad, right? It’s a good failure. We hope she still likes her tattoo despite what happened.

My Favorite Food? Chicken Rice

Maybe this person is a close friend of that girl who has miso soup tattooed on her ankle or a relative of the one who has fresh spring rolls on her back. The connection between their tattoos is uncanny. They must have been in love with their food.

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While he was on vacation in Thailand, this man got a tattoo that said “chicken rice.” When locals saw this, they thought the tattoo artist must have been pranking him. Look how cool and calm he was while sitting. Maybe he planned this whole thing after all.

A Man Who Truly Loves His Son

We love to see a loving father – they are so precious. Like everyone else on this list, however, this man didn’t properly research the words he wanted to use in his new tattoo. The result was out-of-this-world.

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He got the words “old,” “that,” “me/my,” and “kid” instead of “I’m always looking after my boys.” The scenario saddens us, but he loves his sons regardless of what transpired. That is what is most important.