15 People Who Are Fluent in Chinese or Japanese Reveal the Most Cringeworthy Tattoos They’ve Ever Seen

Getting a tattoo is a big decision—it’s something that’s going to remain on your body for your entire life, after all.

One of the most popular tattoo ideas is to get a word in Chinese or Japanese. There’s something so beautiful about the way the language looks!

However, many times, the word is either poorly translated and the tattoo is completely butchered. What you thought might mean “inspiration” might mean “chicken,” for example.

Below, hear some of the funniest tattoo translations that people who speak Chinese and Japanese have seen before—where the word they got is totally different than the word they meant to get.

  1. “Breastmilk”

    “I speak Japanese. A guy had a massive Kanji tattoo on his arm. I asked him, “what did you ask them to put on you?” He said “oh, this? It means courage.” Sir, that means breast milk.”

  2. “Egg”

    “鸡蛋 meaning egg tattooed on the side of his face – didn’t help that the man was bald and it took all my willpower to not laugh in his face”

  3. “Cheapskate”

    “Both of our managers came from China (one was Chinese, the other Vietnamese who grew up in China). When he asked the one what his tattoo said, she said ‘cheapskate!’ He was mortified and said ‘no, no, it means to the grave’ and she said ‘yeah, when you die, you’ll take all your belongings with you to the grave. You won’t leave anything for anyone. You’re cheap’ he says ‘no, no, it means I take all my secrets to the grave!” She goes ‘that’s not what your arms says’ He was soooo pissed.”

  4. “Spicy”

    “It’s not me but my stepdad got a symbol on the back of his neck that he THOUGHT meant ‘warrior’ or ‘strong’ or something like that. Someone told him one day that it 100% says ‘spicy.’”

  5. “Bicycle”

    “I used to work at a bar and a lady came in with 自転車 on her shoulder. I speak Japanese and asked her what it meant. She replied proudly ‘driven to be self motivated.’ That word means bicycle in Japanese.”

  6. “Bread”

    “Buddy from high school had the nickname ‘Beast.’ Got that tattooed in between his shoulder blades in some Asian looking characters. Home from college over the summer, playing sand volleyball, shirt off, random Asian girl asked him why he had ‘bread’ tattooed there.”

  7. “Chicken”

    “I saw a manager demanding Karen b***hing out a cashier with ‘chicken’ on her neck. I asked her about her cool tattoo and she said it means ‘hope.’ Uh, nope – chicken. I just love whomever did this to her over-entitled self.”

  8. “Yellow”

    “Saw 黄 on someone’s neck. It means ‘yellow.’ Asked her why she had ‘yellow’ tattooed on her and she started to explain its spiritual significance in Chinese culture but I had to interrupt and say ‘No, it really means yellow, like the color.’ Felt kind of like a jerk afterwards, to be honest, but at the moment I thought it was right to bring it up to her.”

  9. “Ceiling”

    “I knew someone that got the Chinese characters that were supposed to mean ‘sky.’ A Chinese friend of theirs pointed out it meant ‘ceiling.’”

  10. “Tax Free”

    “One of my coworkers requested the character for ‘free’ as in ‘freedo ‘which would be 自由, however because he just used translation apps, he ended up with 免 as in 免税 which means ‘tax free’ Its also on his hand and is always visible.”

  11. “Big Head”

    “A person from work had a fairly small Japanese tattoo that was supposed to read ‘Big Brains.’ (He’d just got his degree or something, so this was a celebration of that). A Japanese co-worker started laughing and said it was more like ‘Big Head.’”

  12. “Friend Boat”

    “Japanese kanji ‘Friend Boat.’ They thought it read ‘friendship.’”

  13. “Water & Inflammation”

    “I saw a girl with 水炎 tattooed which means ‘Water’ and ‘Inflammation.’ She must have wanted 水火 which means ‘Water’ and ‘Fire.’ 炎, Inflammation is two 火 Fires, one on top of the other.”

  14. “Picnic Table”

    “As a tattoo artist, I’ve seen many. I myself, can’t read Kanji but I explain to my client that it’s probably most likely not the word they want. Most clients realize that and for some reason still get it. Google can’t possibly be right all the time, that’s my stance on it. Worst one I’ve seen though, one that was translated to picnic table.”

  15. “Evil Anus”

    “I read about one once that was supposed to read ‘badass,’ which it technically did, but the translation was closer to ‘evil anus.’”

Have you ever seen a badly translated Chinese or Japanese tattoo on someone?