What Is Tattoo Slang?

Tattoo culture has developed its own set of slang terms, including simple abbreviations such as "tat" for "tattoo" and words like "inking" to substitute for the verb of getting or giving a tattoo. There are also slang words for tattoo artists, tattoo wearers, tattoo equipment and certain categories of tattoos. Like most slang, knowledge of tattoo slang indicates a common interest and expertise or experience with tattoos.

Some tattoo slang is known among people who haven't gotten tattooed. According to Wikipedia, the "tramp stamp" is a common term for a lower-back tattoo on women that can be found referenced in mainstream media such as "Saturday Night Live." Other slang terms are less-commonly known, especially those that require specific knowledge of styles and instruments used in tattooing. Karen L. Hudson of About created a list of tattoo slang terms contributed by members of the tattoo community. The list includes terms like "gun" or "irons" for certain kinds of equipment, "carving" or "grinding" as verbs for creating the tattoo and miscellaneous words such as "squicked" to mean that someone is disturbed or disgusted by what they see in a tattoo parlor.

Tattoo slang, like most other kinds of slang, also varies greatly based on region. In a TIME interview of Portland tattoo artist Jeff Johnson, Johnson states that many individual tattoo shops and artists have their own slang terms that wouldn't be understood outside their particular shops.