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Teardrop Tattoo Meaning

Teardrop Tattoo Meaning

Sporting a teardrop tattoo placed close to one's eye can be an attention-drawing artwork to look upon, but what does it mean to have one inked on or around the facial region?
Avanika Mote
When it comes to tattoos and body art, there has to be a meaning behind it. Tattoos are popular symbols and represent a person's personality, background, history and even his life. Tattooing a teardrop is one such symbolic art piece that is strategically placed to one side of the eye. It is also called "tear tattoo" and it has several implications behind, depending upon where it is placed. This tattoo also represents the loss of a loved one or a friend. There are no specific designs when it comes to these tattoos, where they're primarily associated with prison and suffering. But the specific meaning behind a teardrop tattoo may vary with the region of the wearer, and the location and design of the tattoo.


This tattoo is mostly associated with prisoners, convicts, gangsters, thugs, suffering, or the loss of a loved one. But for every individual, a teardrop tattoo may mean something else. Sometimes, this may symbolize the membership of a gang. When associated with being in prison, these tattoos signify the number of killings the wearer has in his criminal record. It is a tattoo that is also inked for every five years of hard suffering time a person has served in prison.

These tattoos may also indicate that a person has murdered someone in his/her life inside or outside the prison. Although these may have multiple meanings, most of the tattoos of this depiction seen in mainstream culture today imply that the wearer has killed someone.

In Australia
What does a teardrop tattoo mean in this region? Well, the first ever tattoo depicting a teardrop was found in Australia. Tear tattoos were forcibly inked among Australian prisoners on their inmates for serving time in prison for being child molesters and sexual abusers. When an inmate in an Australian prison was about to be incarcerated for his crime, other inmates would forcibly ink a tattoo under the other's right eye. But this act is very rare in Australian prisons today.

In the United States
In the US, the meaning of a teardrop tattoo has changed drastically over time. The Australian prison tradition was carried forward to American prisoners too. Initially, teardrop tattoos were used to show that a person was incarcerated for murdering someone. If the reason behind getting inked was this, the teardrop would represent a feeling of deep regret for that act and the prisoners would get such tattoos after leaving the prison.

But at the same time, people in the civil world (outside prison) got the teardrop tattoo inked, and had a wholly different reason for getting one. For them it signified the loss of a loved one. American men would usually get inked with this tattoo to symbolize the loss of their wife or family member. Ever since then, a tear tattoo started being used as a symbol of remembrance and memorial.

As mentioned earlier, the meaning of having a teardrop tattoo also depends upon the color and location of the teardrop. If the tattoo is just the outline of the teardrop, it implies that a friend of the wearer was killed. If a teardrop is colored inside the outline it represents that the wearer's friend has been killed and that the wearer has taken revenge of his friend's death.

An empty tear thus symbolizes that a loved one has been killed or that the wearer has shot someone else. A filled teardrop tattoo represents that a loved one has committed suicide or was killed by some cause other than a murder. It could be an accident or a death penalty. A teardrop with an empty top and a full bottom symbolizes that the wearer has taken revenge of the murder of a loved one. An empty tattoo on one's face also symbolizes a person's time served in prison, which is usually a year at least.

Teardrop tattoos can also be inked as a remembrance of a loved one who passed away while the wearer was incarcerated. Today, a lot of celebrities in the mainstream like Lil' Wayne and Amy Winehouse have gotten themselves inked with these tattoos and there are many fancy styles in which you can design a tear tattoo for yourself and place it near the corner of the eye or on the cheek bones. This placement makes them appear like real tears.

Today since tattoos have become a fashion statement amongst youngsters all over the world, a teardrop tattoo can be inked purely for fashion.