What The Meaning of a Teardrop Tattoo?

What The Meaning of a Teardrop Tattoo

Teardrop tattoos may often be found in TV shows, celebrities, and even criminal situations. However, their meaning and roots have a much deeper history than pop culture. The teardrop tattoos are usually found on the face, near one of the eyes, and sometimes both. The teardrop tattoo has been contentious for a long time owing to being connected with some people’s criminal past and records.

However, the genuine meaning of the teardrop tattoo differs in the significant issue of how one views it. Indeed, some primary goals are living in jail, serving a sentence, or even some tragic and terrible experiences in life.
So, what does the teardrop tattoo signify in reality? This page provides all the details we could uncover about the teardrop tattoo origin and its significance. Further on, we answered some generally asked questions regarding the teardrop tattoos that you may have been interested in.

The Origin Of The Teardrop Tattoo

It is thought that the teardrop tattoo has a lengthy history. However, the origin of this highly-controversial tattoo might perhaps be lost in history. It has been connected with jail life and all the possible drawbacks.

However, the first conceivable appearance of teardrop tattoos in the mainstream media grabbed the news in the 1970s New Yorker magazine. The prominent magazine then published an article on the life of a Mexican gang member who was sentenced to a particular period in the United States jail.

That’s the first time it was heard that the teardrop tattoo was utilized in prison. It was painted for many causes such as sadness, loss of an inmate, specific criminal actions that were going place within the jail cells, and others. The teardrop also reflected the battle within the jail cells, but more about that later.

According to certain myths concerning the teardrop symbolism in tattoos, it was believed that the jail cell prisoners who are more powerful, aggressive, and impatient and seek to impose their control would compel the more subservient inmate to have a teardrop tattoo.

This generally happened when the more dominant inmate displayed symptoms of aggression and disdain towards the less prominent inmate by treating him harshly, abusing, demeaning, and even raping him.

The most potent convicts, who committed the most crimes, would be the proud bearers of the teardrop tattoos in other jails. Some that had several teardrops tattooed on their face, generally under the right eye, but occasionally under both of them, were thought to have killed many people and utilized this tattoo method to keep up with the number of killings.

The Teardrop Tattoo Meaning

Now that we explained the likely genesis of the teardrop tattoo, it’s time to look at several meanings, both those relating to life in jail and the meaning that isn’t wholly tied to prison life and an extensive criminal record.

The Teardrop Tattoo Meaning

The Prison Life Symbolism

As indicated earlier, over the previous 40 to 50 years, the trend with teardrop tattoos has frequently been connected with the connotations relating to the criminal record, street fights and killings, and the life inside the jail.

However, the varying restrictions for the teardrop tattoo apply from jail to prison. In most situations, having the teardrop tattoo while in jail is related to the struggle, sorrow, and frequent loneliness of being in prison, the longing for freedom, family, friends, and loved ones.

As indicated above, aggressive convicts compel their less dominant comrades to acquire a teardrop tattoo and frequently do it themselves to create terror and display superiority.

Also, the symbolism of life in jail is defined by the color of a teardrop, whether it’s merely outlined or filled in with the solid layer of the link or flaunt any other color.

Some teardrops are crimson, although blue or green to mimic the genuine tear closely on most occasions. Some symbolism claims that the drawn teardrop represents that the prisoner was accused of attempted murder, injuring someone terribly, or nearly accomplishing the murder deed.

If the teardrop is filled in, then it signifies that the imprisoned individual was charged with a degree of murder and is likely condemned to life in prison. However, these differ from institution to facility and may be taken with the grain of salt before being trusted in totally.

Also, whether a person should ink the teardrop tattoo on their left or right portion of the location causes many misunderstandings. However, that also depends on the prisoner’s facility and tight norms and regulations between the inmates.

So, the teardrops positioned on the left side of the eye signify that the individual has performed a murder of someone. Each teardrop indicates one murder, which might make other convicts terrified of aggressive and dominating inmates if they have some of those. However, this regulation doesn’t apply everywhere. Some persons may have teardrops on the left side owing to melancholy, sorrow, or anguish in jail.

On the other hand, convicts with teardrop tattoos on the right side of their eyes aren’t usually connected with murdering someone. In certain jails, offenders get teardrops on the right side of the face to symbolize remembering a friend or a family member who has died away.

Certain gang members also tattoo a teardrop on the right side of their eye as a show of honor for another gang member who was slain or had passed away. Some gangs might even hint at retaliation for the fallen gang member.
Then yet, that doesn’t always hold, and a person with the tattoo beneath their right eye isn’t necessarily connected with missing the departed one or being killed.

Now that we emphasized the teardrop tattoo’s crucial meaning let’s look at additional symbols related to jail and criminal life but aren’t restricted.

The Prison Life Symbolism


As we said a few times in the essay, the teardrop tattoo may be connected with losing a loved one, sorrow, and mourning that person. A few celebrities tattooed a teardrop to symbolize the death of a loved one.

Rapper Lil Wayne has made a tattoo of teardrops to represent the loss of life due to street violence between rival gangs. The tattoos are intended to grieve and respect those people. Lil Wayne is not the only one who tattooed this emblem for this cause. He’s also accompanied by The Game and a few more rappers and musicians.

Teardrop tattoo for Mourning


Crying may be related to both pleasant and sour ideas. However, we realize that tears flow out of grief and weariness more frequently than not. That said, teardrop tattoos may also signify the difficulty caused by many events, circumstances, and emotions.

Similar symbolism is painted by the jail inmates who periodically tattoo teardrops to acknowledge and underline the hardships and obstacles that imprinted them throughout their stay behind the prison bars.

Also Read : Best Fox Tattoo Designs and Meanings Ideas For 2022


A teardrop tattoo doesn’t necessarily have to come with dire implications occasionally; it may signify something bold. Perseverance is a representation of strength and the capacity of someone to adhere to their objectives despite the expense and problems they confront.

It’s a feeling and strength for those who need to survive harsh times and situations to emerge stronger. A similar symbolism may be extended to persons accused of criminals who have to spend time in prison or get a heavier penalty than they deserve.

Perseverance is also about patience and the capacity to work hard till your ambitions come true.

teardrop tattoo means Perseverance

Teardrop Tattoo: More FAQs

We devoted a unique FAQ area for teardrop tattoos and additional meaning if you want to know more about teardrop tattoos. If you missed something, here you might perhaps find your answer.

Do only individuals from prison make a teardrop tattoo?

That varies. Nothing precludes you from having a teardrop tattoo, and it's not exclusively confined to folks from prison. However, in most cases, the teardrop tattoo represents some dispute with legal justice. It manifests destructive emotions like struggling with adversities, sorrow and mourning murder, and more.

What is the most excellent place for the teardrop tattoo?

As its name implies, the teardrop tattoo should be put on the face and, if possible, near to the eyes. Of course, you may naturally put this sort of tattoo on some other region of the body. Still, it'd instead be characterized as a waterdrop, in that case, instead of the teardrop.

Does a teardrop tattoo signify that you murdered someone?

While the teardrop tattoo does not always signify that someone has committed a murder, it might also hint at an occurrence of such nature. Earlier, we indicated that the left eye teardrop tattoo might imply that the individual was convicted for murder. Still, they could've also murdered someone in jail. If the tattoo is on the right side of the eye, it might imply that the individual is mourning a family member or a buddy from a gang.

Hi, I'm Kahraman SARIBAL and welcome to herotattoo.net Some individuals find tattoos fascinating, while others can't live without them. Learn more about tattoos and their symbolism/meanings on my blog (Hero Tattoo). I'm a big fan of tattoos, and I want to provide the best advice and information possible in the most interesting way possible.

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