In the United States, it can mean the wearer has killed someone. The number of teardrops may indicate the number of years spent in prison, or the number of times the wearer was raped. It may also indicate time spent in prison or the loss of a loved one or fellow gang member.
In at least one prison (Oaxaca State), it indicates that the wearer was raped in prison.
It is sometimes worn by the female companions of prisoners in solidarity with their loved ones.
In a 2008 interview with Blender, Rapper Lil Wayne said of his four teardrop tattoos: "Lord, forgive me". He did not say what he was asking forgiveness for. Wayne has spent 8 months in a city jail. Amar'e Stoudemire was tattooed with a teardrop following the death of his older brother Hazell Jr. in a car accident. Stoudemire's mother and brother Hazell Jr. have been in and out of prison.
See also 
- Poljac, Bakir; Burke, Tod (August 2008). "Erasing the Past: Tattoo-Removal Programs for Former Gang Members". FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin 77 (8). pp. 13–18.
- WOLF, SONJA; Logan, Samuel (August 2010). "This is for the Mara Salvatrucha: Inside the MS-13, America's Most Violent Gang". Journal of Latin American Studies 42 (3): 627–629.
- Smith, Brendan (April 25, 2008). "Tattoo Regret". Washington City Paper. Retrieved 2010-09-20.
- Santos, Xuan (Fall 2009). "The Chicana Canvas: Doing Class, Gender, Race, and Sexuality through Tattooing in East Los Angeles". Feminist Formations 21 (3): 91–120.
- Binelli, Mark (April 16, 2009). "Life on Planet Wayne". Rolling Stone. pp. 43–47, 73–74.
- Lil Wayne Speaks On Addiction, R&B Album & More Andres Vasquez February 26, 2008
- "Rapper Lil Wayne Released From Prison After 8-Month Sentence". Fox News. 2010-11-04.
- Lorenzo, Tom (2012-02-14). "Amar’e Stoudemire Honors His Late Brother By Getting A “Teardrop” Tattoo". Sports Grid. Retrieved 2012-02-28.
- Ackert, Kristie; Isola, Frank (2012-02-06). "Amar'e Stoudemire's brother killed in crash". Daily News (New York).