Krímer 1905: ío; Finsch 1893: ío; Hasebe 1932: ío. [back]


The Blue-striped or Regal Angelfish (Pygoplites diacanthus [Boddaert], Family POMACANTHINAE, subfamily HOLOCANTHINAE) inhabits the coral reefs in areas of rich coral growth and clear lagoon. It prefers stands of staghorn coral ( Acropora spp.) and is moderately common in the Western Pacific and Micronesia (Grant 1985:469; Myers 1989:162). Older name in the literature is Holocanthus diacanthus (such as in Krímer).

The regal angelfish was also seen as the ideal tattoo motif to strive for on outer islands of Palau, such as Tobin and Pulo Anna, both islands in the southwestern part. In Palauan, Uremar means to " become a man." It is the generic name given to several species of Pomadaysiids whose black markings resemble tattoos that used to be applied to Tobin males on their reaching adulthood. Pygloplites diacanthus, a blue-banded angelfish, has markings on it similar to these seen tattooed on the elderly natives of Pulo Anna. Its name farupon pisahe he pulo, refers to that similarity. (Johannes 1981:129-130; for a tattooed chest see ibid. figure 17). [back]


Erdland 1906:81. [back]


Erdland: ío for the Ralik Chain, ÷ for the Ratak Chain. [back]


An additional use of the word is to express that a tip of a stick or an iron is "bent".

The lion fish or red firefish (Pterois volitans [Linnaeus 1758], Family SCORPAENIDAE) occurs on both lagoon and oceanward reef from turbid inshore areas to depths of over 50m. During the day it often hangs under ledges, but may also actively forage as it does at night. It feeds on small fishes, shrimp and crabs and is common in the Western Pacific and Micronesia (Grant 1985:734; Myers 1989:98).[back]


However, according to the modern Marshallese-English dictionary (Abo et al. 1976), the regal angelfish (Pygoplites diacanthus) is called rłb§b , while the lion fish (Pterois volitans) is called §§ (Ratak) or e§§ (Ralik). The latter is also mentioned in the list of fish names in Krímer & Nevermann (1938:299), who list it as ÷ for the Ratak and for the Ralik Chain. Krímer & Nevermann's fish list also contains a fish ribob, but the regal angelfish is not listed as one of the fish species so named. [back]


If the term eo had originally been taken from fish which had been richly ornamented, then the language has now almost completed a full cycle. The modern Marshallese language contains a term eoot, which means "to be striped or spotted, as in ancient tattoos" (Abo et al. 1976:65.). [back]


Unidentified bird mentioned in Krímer 1904. [back]


Krímer 1904; 1906. [back]


Finsch 1893:428. [back]


Chamisso 1986:263.[back]


The Micronesian tattoos have beed documented to a varying degreee of detail by the members of the German South Seas Expedition of 1910. Damm 1938; Damm & Sarfert 1935; Eilers 1935; 1936; Finsch 1894; Hambruch 1914; 1915; Hambruch & Eilers 1936; Krímer 1926; 1932; 1935; 1937; Młller 1917; Sarfert 1919; Sarfert & Damm 1929. [back]


Krímer: aridladju. (=addi-finger [but also shell of larger clams]; jokur - shell of a crab [Abo et al. 1976]). [back]


Krímer: aridladju. (=addi-finger [but also shell of larger clams]; lajju not identified [Abo et al. 1976]). For the reconstruction of modern spelling the phonetic equivalent of the German version ladju was used. In their list of shellfish names Krímer & Nevermann (1938:301) list the name ladjo as Conus ebraeus. Erdland's dictionary (1906:144) lists ljo. [back]


Krímer: ingidjar; Erdland (1906:107): injar; Erdland: chest tattoo in general. Hasebe: ingijar, ingidjar, ingjar. Hasebe (1932), possibly following Erdland, argues that ingijar is not a tattoo motif as asserted by Krímer, but a term for an ornament field. The entomology of the German transcription is not clear beyond reasonable doubt. The following options exist: (a) anijjar from anijterm for a god; jarto pray (Abo et al. 1976:15; 85); (b) majidjar from majidto bow; jarto pray (ibid. 85;211); (c) anijnijjar from anijnijspell, sorcery, witchcraft, magic; jarto pray (presumably also: to sing a sorcerer's chant (ibid. 15; 85) [back] .


Erdland 1914:20. Reconstructed term, as the meaning of the motif is preserved in the literature, but not the term itself. Abo et al. (1976:486) also list another term for turtle shell (j§kur), but that term also applies to the shell (carapace) of a crab. [back]


See for example the legend of Lijjebake and the brothers Letao and Jemeliwut in "Letao and the great mother turtle" (cf. Downing et al. 1992:93-94). It is interesting to note that the turtle motif is only used on (male) buttocks, though the meaning of this could not be elucidated. [back]


Krímer: Buír ínan Lebulling Erdland (1906:94): buireen an Lebulin. Also a term for an ornament field, apparently on the mons veneris. Traditions mention that the tattoo has been invented by L§b§ll§˝ as a past time. (Erdland 1914:21). According to Marshallese tradition L§b§ll§˝ is involved in a famous incest case between a Lerooj (chieftess) and himself as a kajur (commoner). [back]


Krímer: lokan bullak. Erdland (1906:149): loganbuilak tail (Erdland: logan; Gr÷sser: lok) of the fish bullak. Erdland 1914:21. According to the modern Marshallese dictionary, bwilak (or bwilaklak) is the term for the orange-spine unicorn fish (Naso lituratus).

All unicorn fish (Acanthuridae; subfamily Nasinae) possess a set of small non-retractable dermal (peduncular) plates with protruding spines at their epicaudal fin area. Although claimed by Krímer (1904:25) to possess three dermal plates at each side, the unicorn fish has only two per side (Myers 1989:249). [back]


A 60-year old woman Richieiakoe from Kwajalein, who bore such a tattoo [back]


Hasebe: bíle. Possibly a corruption of jeleak (see deeleak). [back]


Krímer: ríleag, releag, apparently related to ríl = fan; deelfan (Abo et al. 1976:52) ; eaklegendary pile of copra brought to Mwimneak on Ebon by a man from Kiribati (ibid. 58). For the fans and their ornament motifs, see E.Krímer (1938:158) and figures in Krímer & Nevermann (1938:plates 12-13). [back]


A 60-year old woman Richieiakoe from Kwajalein, who bore such a tattoo (Hasebe 1932) [back] .


Hasebe: Jíleak. Hasebe: líle pointed tail fin; ak Frigatebird; bíb thick midrib of a leaf. Mat weaving knows the motif Lob§nar (Krímer: labína, labínak; E.Krímer: rebenal, labenak; Erdland: l÷b in ak), tail feathers of the frigate bird (ak; Krímer & Nevermann 1938:161). It is possible that the motif name changed over time, as knowledge of its original meaning became lost as a result of the demise in tattooing, while mat weaving (and the knowledge of the motif's meaning) continued. [back]


Krímer: kabinout. According to Krímer (1904) it means "bottom of rainwater". According to Abo et al. (1976:50) dŐnnin w§t simply means rainwater. The navel itself is called bwije. [back]


Erdland 1906:125: Kabinwut. Not seen by Hasebe (1932). The dŐnnin w§t is a rare motif, and has so far only be recorded in two instances; one being on the chest of a young chief from Jaluit, who most likely is Kabua the Great, and one on a drawing made by Choris (1822) on occasion of Kotzebue's stay on Wotje or Utirik. [back]


Krímer: ío. [back]


Krímer: íodalab. [back]


Krímer: íoiririk. The rope belt was called idik (Krímer: irik). Hasebe (1932) contends that Krímer's identification is incorrect and that according to Erdland's dictionary "band is irok, and irik, irikrik means to waver [zigzag?]" . For ethnographic specimens of such belts see Krímer & Nevermann 1938:123. [back]


Krímer: allonga; longa "Entenmuschel" "Duck's Foot" (Lepas ansiferera) Krímer: longai; Erdland: longai, loní; Gr÷sser: longe. Hasebe: elonga. E.Krímer: eallonga; íllonga. Krímer & Nevermann (1938:302) list it as longe in their list of shellfish names. These shells have a long foot with which they attach themselves to floating objects. Hanging down they syphon the water for nutrients. Such shells can be frequently found attached to driftwood and other drift objects which have floated in, as well as on the bottom of vessels which have been in the water for a long time. See Erdland (1914:20) for the meaning of the motif. Duck's foot shell tattoos were attached to the "canoe", i.e. the upper chest triangle. This motif is also used in the weaving of clothing/dress mats (Krímer & Nevermann 1938:161) and has been seen on mats from Mile and Majuro (Ibid.). [back]


Erdland: ibeirro; Erdland (1914:242) mentions this motif in a folk tale of two young men who have incomplete tattooes. The etymology of the terms is unclear. ibeb means a series of waves (Abo et al. 1976:69). [back]


Krímer (1904:17): djílili. [back]


Hasebe: ilap; big [= large tattoo motif]. The term elap seems more likely to refer to the ornament field than to the motif. The name as used here is reconstructed from mat weaving, which knows a motif which resembles this tattoo motif. It is called jikin uwe (Krímer: djikinuí; E.Krímer: djigenuuwe; Erdland: jigin uwe) or "starway, staircase, rat ladder" (Abo et al. 1976:104). In the context of discussing sayings, Erdland mentions that in uwe means a reef channel through which fishes swim down the slopes from a reef platform (Erdland 1914:156), with the connotation of "lowly" or lower status. [back]


Krímer: nge; Erdland: ke; Dolphin; Senfft: ge. When Krímer mentioned to his informants that the motif had little in common with a dolphin, his informants could not explain the relationship (Krímer 1904:25). [back]


The dolphin is identified as Delphinus roseiventris in Abo et al. (1976:138). According to Reese (1987:333-335), the Marshallese distinguish two dolphin species, a small one swimming in large groups, called ke, which is very likely to be the spinner dolphin (Stenella longirostris), and a large one, swimming in small groups called rak or raj. Abo et al. (1976:344) identify Coryphoena hippurus as a dolphin termed koko. [back]


Krímer: ninegeinegom, possibly from ine = stick, geine = tool, utensil, gomegom = picking of breadfruit (Krímer 1905); According to Krímer (1904:17) identical in appearance with the motif djílili. kein k§m-stick for picking breadfruit (Abo et al. 1976). [back]


Krímer: navirong; gillinbłll According to Abo et al. (1976:44) błl is a boxfish (Ostracion cubicus, Family Ostraciidae) . It is also mentioned in the list of fish names in Krímer & Nevermann (1938:298), who (following Erdland 1906) list it as bil and identify it as Ostracion quadricornis. The skin of several boxfish species is spotted with semi-rectangular motifs (Myers 1989:Plates 140-142). [back]


Erdland: kírikrik. "Schindelsparren". Abo et al. 1976:137 describe kadikdik as a construction term for the frame of a house, while Erdland (1914) describes kírikrik as a tile slat for the roof. Krímer & Nevermann (1938) mention kerikerik as the same term (or kedillemak or the Ratak Chain). (see Spennemann 1992b for terminological explanations). The difference between the submotifs 23b and 23c is the fact that the vertical lines in 23c are thicker than in 23b and consist of only one vertical stroke instead of two. In addition the vertical lines are joined from one horizontal band to the next. However, in view of the natural pigment migration, which occurs over time it is well possible that motif 23c is only a natural development from 23b. Unfortunatley no proper quantititave data are present to show that 23c is more common among (physically) older people. [back]


Krímer: denemenegarobłd cloud motif (Erdland: Karo = cloud; Gr÷sser: k÷ro = cloud). k§do-cloud (Abo et al.1976). [back]


A similar vertical connection exists in the lijjŐ motif ( 3b). [back]


Name phonetically transcribed from Krímer's and Hasebe's renderings, meaning unclear. Krímer: lidje. According to Hasebe (1932) lije (lidje, lidge) is an ornament field at the side of the chest. The interpretation of the German transcription, especially in the absence of a recorded meaning is somewhat complicated. The modern Marshallese language has no parallel word. The closest to it could be lijŐ, which stands for "Miss, Gal, Lass" and is usually used with demonstratives ("over there" Abo et al. 1976:178), but this interpretation makes little sense. Other options would be lije▓to rinse bait▓ (ibid. 179); lijjib▓blunt▓ (ibid.); or even lwłj which means "mallet" or "hammer" (ibid. 197). None of which would make too much sense in view of the motif's appearance.

It is possible that the oval shaped oblique strokes of this motif, as well as of motifs 22a, 26a and 26b were also scar tattooing as opposed to pigment tattooing. [back]


Krímer: lodj (Type of fish). The identification of the fish is somewhat problematic as there are two fish species which bear similar names. In the list of identified fish names in Krímer & Nevermann (1938:298), such a fish is not listed at all, but occurs in the list of unidentified animals (ibid. 301). In the modern dictionary (Abo et al. 1976:193-194) the fishes looj and louj are listed. The looj is the bonito (Euthunnus alleteratus, Family Thunnidae) , while the louj is only identified as "a fish with long fins". The bonito, also called false albacore or little tunny, is a common shoaling fish of inshore coastal waters and coral reefs, where patches of churned-up water mark its feeding on blue sprats, herrings and pilchards (Grant 1985:639). It has three marked vertical fins (first and second dorsal fin, caudal fin) which stand out far and well from the otherwise very straight-lined body. [back]


Krímer: longejok; Erdland: lonjak; lo˝ejok Erdland (1906:150): type of a chest tattoo in general Krímer: chiefly marker. Hasebe: rongejok, longejak; longedjak. According to Hasebe's informant a chiefly tattoo motif. Spelling of motif term after A.Capelle. The entomology of this term is somewhat unclear. The word lo˝tak is a term for "a foundation, a base, a lever a roller for launching canoes, something that is put under something else to protect, lift or support it" (Abo et al. 1976:193). [back]


Erdland 1906:92; 1914:20. "Mar b÷obudi". For the recontruction of the modern spelling the phonetic equivalent of the German spelling was used. It is possible that the oval shaped oblique strokes of this motif, as well as of motifs 3, 26a and 26b were also scar tattooing as opposed to pigment tattooing. [back]


This interpretation does not follow that given by Krímer (1904) as well as Erdland's dictionary (1906) . According to Krímer the motif means "pearls or gems", also a "neck ornament". Krímer: marub Pearls, gems. Erdland: mar÷ = neck ornament. However, the modern dictionary does not contain anything close to the transcriptions provided by the Germans. The closest is marmar "necklace" (Abo et al. 1976:213), which is phonetically far removed from Krímer's marub. Then there is mar§- which means "necklace of". The word thus may have been mar§b meaning necklace of the the chest (where ob is the chest). Other options are mŐdo an archaic word for a sea crab (ibid. 200; not listed in Krímer & Nevermann's [1938:294ff.] list of animal names), and especially mŐdo (pronounced mero), a variant form of do. do, however, is the term for a large-meshed, bag-shaped net to wash arrowroot or to soak breadfruit. Given the appearance of the motif, the latter seems more likely. The motif is located on the shoulders and thus the interpretation as "Necklace" does not bear out.

Large-meshed netbag to wash arrowroot in the lagoon.



Krímer: maninginmag; gienmag Fish teeth, probably from nin = teeth and mak species of the Scombridae (Krímer 1904). The identification of the fish is somewhat problematic in view of Krímer's initial identification as one of the Scombrids (tunas and mackerels). In the list of fish names in Krímer & Nevermann (1938:299), the fish is called mak which is also called tak and is identified as belonging to the family Belonidae (needlefishes), while it is listed as mak (Strongylura marina) in the modern dictionary (Abo et al. 1976:212). The motif does resemble the teeth arrangement of needlefishes and thus an identification with Strongylura incisus or reef needlefish, which is known for its numerous teeth, is likely. Entomology: ˝ii -tooth of mak-needlefish; (˝ii is a modern contraction of ˝iątooth and inąof; from [construct particle]. Thus it is likely that Krímer would have heard it as ningin). Needlefishes have extremely elongated jaws, full of needle-like teeth (hence the name), and slender silvery bodies. All fish lack spines. Needlefishes are surface dwelling, predating on small fish and are known to be on inshore reefs (Myers 1989:70).

In Marshallese traditions the needlefish features as an arrogant fish boasting its swimming skills, and finally succumbing to the cunning and family ties of a lowly hermit crab (cf. Downing et al. 1992:151 ff.) [back]


Erdland (1906:90) nin b§g§; Erdland (1914): błgo. In the list of fish names in Krímer & Nevermann (1938:297), the shark is called beggo and bogo, while it is pako in the modern dictionary (Abo et al. 1976:233). [back]


Krímer: merrimidji man. PŐdŐlijmaan is a grass, according to Abo et al. (1986:235) either Fimbrystilis atollensis St. John, or Eleocharis geniculata (L.), both plants which are common in the Marshall Islands and are part of a lagoonal vegetation area, where human impact has cleared or altered the original coastal fringe vegetation. In addition, there is another, though more remote, option. In Krímer and Nevermann's listing of animal names (1938:301) they list a sea bird name, as of then unidentified to species: meni m÷uj. The same is listed in Abo et al. (1976: 201) as MŐnnimouj and described as a white seagull. [back]


Krímer: ranglongejok; Erdland: chest tattoo Krímer: chiefly marker. [back]


Krímer: dogorak; togerak, tokorak, in the text of a tattooing chant also called bigorrau. Erdland 1906:173 (cross-tattoo). [back]


Krímer: uadjir, uadir, oadir, Erdland (1906:177): wajir. The entomology of this name in the German transcription is not clear beyond doubt. włj is a term for uprooting and weeding, as well as for lightweight drift material (cork, balsa wood; Abo et al. 1976:286) and włjooj or ujooj is the generic Marshallese term for any kind of grass (ibid. 286). [back]


Krímer: uori; uorik; E.Krímer: orik; uorik; Erdland: wure = to and fro movement of a boat. For the recontruction of the modern spelling the phonetic equivalent of the German spelling was used. This motif is also used in the weaving of clothing/dress mats (Krímer & Nevermann 1938:161) and has been seen on mats from Rongelap and Majuro. Krímer & Nevermann (1938:162) mention that this motif, as a mat motif, was seen as "new" and only recently invented at the beginning of this century. The motif invention was credited to the wife of one of Kabua's relatives. It is unclear whether the name initially stemmed from tattooing and was transferred to mat weaving, or whether the invented mat weaving motif was transferred to the medium of skin.

The wake of a canoe is listed in the modern dictionary as Aod or aode in Abo et al. (1986;18). Wadid, not contained in the dictionary has the meaning of "to swerve", "to roll (as in the movement of a boat/ship)" according to A. Capelle. [back]


Hasebe 1932. Reconstructed term, as the meaning of the motif is preserved in the literature, but not the term itself. According to Hasebe, who compares it with tattoo motifs from Pohnpei and argues for an introduction from there, thus this motif is not traditionally Marshallese. [back]


According to Krímer (1904:23) this is a misrepresentation (at first casual sight) of what is in fact motif No. 23a, but Hasebe (1932) mentions that he saw this very motif on the back of a fellow called "Ranchuru" of Arno Atoll. [back]


It is possible0-though not very likely-that the oval-shaped part of the motif was scar tattooing rather than a pigment tattoo. [back]


See previous footnote. [back]


Krímer & Nevermann (1938:162) mention that Marshallese mat weaving had taken over and incorporated modern European motifs, among them the colours of playing cards. It is thus possible that this motif may stem from this source. [back]


Erdland: kílablab. Erdland (1906:58; 129) uses the term to describe a chest tattoo in general and does not differentiate between the motif and the ornament field the motif was used in. [back]


Krímer: kebogorogo. Reconstructed term, as the meaning of the motif is preserved in the literature, but not the term itself. Probably "To cover the torso", indicating a motif used for a boundary line (From: kŐ-trunk, torso; k§bor§k-to be covered; Abo et al. 1976:36; 136). [back]


Krímer (1905): kinebo. In the absence of a drawing of the motif, as well as of further informaton, Krímer's kinebo is a motif hard to identifiy. The closest word the modern Marshallese language knows is kinbo (pronounced "kin-e-bo"), which stands for the red spot tang fish (Acanthurus achilles, Abo et al. 1976:145), a common fish on the oceanward reefs of the Marshall Islands (see Myers 1989:244 for morphological and behavioural details). Other readings of the name could be kinbłt"not ripe" (of breadfruit; ibid.). A more likley interpretation, however, could be kinejo from kinej-scar and eo-tattoo (Abo et al. 1976:64; 145). [back]


Hasebe: nenegat. Name phonetically transcribed from Hasebe's rendering, meaning unclear. Possibly "side of the breast" (from ninnin-breast,-kat-side of a person; Abo et al. 1976:134; 224). [back]


Erdland 1914:21. [back]


Erdland 1914:21. [back]


Chamisso 1986:263. [back]


Finsch 1893:428. [back]


Hambruch + Eilers 1936. [back]


Kubary 1887:75. [back]


Chamisso 1986:353. [back]


Chamisso 1986:263. [back]


Hasbe 1932. [back]


Hasbe explained his are and leg-binding theory in greater detail in a separate paper (Hasbe 1930; not seen).

An issue to be mentioned is that the Marshall Islands term for binding with rope is eoeo, (or eo), such as the lashing of a canoe (Abo et al 1976:64; Alessio 1990:550.[back]


Cf. Spennemann 1992a [back]


Such as the "Duetsche Kolonial Zeitung," the "Duestches Kolonialblatt," or the "Die Gartenlaube." [back]


See also comments by Krímer on the change in mat weaving ornaments and the incorporation of modern indroduced motifs, such as the colour of playing cards (Krímer + Nevermann 1938:162). [back]


Hasbe 1932. [back]


See also section "The Frequency of Tattooing." [back]


Krímer + Nevermann 1938:94. [back]


This fits in well with other differentiations between the two chains, such as different dialects (Bender 1963) and the lack of inter-chain communication except for the area of the southern Marshalls. [back]


Erdland 1914:342-345. [back]


There is some limited correlation with the mat weaving. For example, the totem of the Errłbra (Krímer:Larrbra) of Namorik is the kalo bird, which Erdland identifies with the "Rotgans" (Branta canadensis; cf. Pratt et al. 1987:95-97). This kalo is a motif in mat weaving (Krímer + Nevermann 1938:161). [back]


Kaeppler 1972, Krímer 1904, Krímer + Nevermann 1938. [back]


See list of motifs in Krímer + Nevermann 1938:161-162. [back]


Explanations Pers. Comm. A.Cappelle, Alele Museum. [back]