Teardrop tattoo

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Music artist Lil Wayne with teardrop tattoos below his eyes.

The teardrop tattoo or tear tattoo is a symbolic tattoo that is placed underneath the eye. The tattoo can have several meanings, including signifying the number of years spent in prison, the number of times they were raped while incarcerated,[1] the loss of a loved one or fellow gang member,[1] or the fact that the wearer has killed someone.[2]


The tattoo can have several meanings. In the United States, it can signify that the wearer has killed someone.[2] Alternatively, the number of teardrops may indicate the number of times the wearer was raped while in prison.[3] It may also indicate the wearer has been imprisoned or indicate the loss of a loved one or fellow gang member.[1]

According to The Devil's Front Porch, a book written by Lester Douglas Johnson about serving 1927 to 1957 in Kansas State Penitentiary, the tattoo denoted a member of "The Old Fraternity", referring to the Biblical Cain who slew his brother.[1][4]

It is sometimes worn by the female companions of prisoners in solidarity with their loved ones.[5]


Basketball player Amar'e Stoudemire got a teardrop tattoo in 2012, following the death of his older brother Hazell Jr. in a car accident.[6] Rapper Lil Wayne has teardrop tattoos.[7] In Lana Del Rey's "Young and Beautiful" music, for The Great Gatsby soundtrack, she wore two diamond tear drops by her eye and tweeted "2 tears in solidarity".

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d 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. 
  2. ^ a b Smith, Brendan (April 25, 2008). "Tattoo Regret". Washington City Paper. Retrieved 2010-09-20. 
  3. ^ http://www.mexconnect.com/articles/3624-four-days-in-the-oaxaca-state-prison
  4. ^ 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. doi:10.1017/s0022216x10000994. 
  5. ^ 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. 
  6. ^ Lorenzo, Tom (2012-02-14). "Amar'e Stoudemire Honors His Late Brother By Getting A "Teardrop" Tattoo". Sports Grid. Retrieved 2012-02-28. 
  7. ^ Binelli, Mark (April 16, 2009). "Life on Planet Wayne". Rolling Stone. pp. 43–47, 73–74.