Teardrop tattoo

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Rapper Lil Wayne with teardrop tattoos below his eyes.

The teardrop tattoo or tear tattoo is a symbolic tattoo of a tear that is placed underneath the eye. The teardrop is one of the most widely recognised prison tattoos[1] and has various meanings.

It can signify that the wearer has spent time in prison;[2] or more specifically that the wearer was raped while incarcerated and tattooed by the rapist as a "property" mark and for humiliation, since facial tattoos cannot be concealed.[3][4]

It can acknowledge the loss of a family or fellow gang member;[5] the tattoo is sometimes worn by the female companions of prisoners in solidarity with their loved ones.[6] Amy Winehouse had a teardrop tattooed to mark her distress at husband Blake Fielder-Civil remaining on remand at Pentonville Prison.[7] US rappers The Game and Lil Wayne have teardrop tattoos signifying the death of friends,[8][7] and basketball player Amar'e Stoudemire has had a teardrop tattoo since 2012 honoring his older brother Hazell Jr., who died in a car accident.[9]

In some cases, it may signify that the wearer has killed someone.[10] Sometimes the exact meaning of the tattoo is only known by the wearer.[5][11] The tattoo's meaning also can change depending on whether the tear is empty or is filled with ink.[10]

A teardrop tattoo has been worn by a Portuguese footballer Ricardo Quaresma.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "15 prison tattoos and their meanings: Corrections One". 
  2. ^ Macdonald, John Marshall (1987). The confession: interrogation and criminal profiles for police officers. Apache Press. p. 83. ISBN 9780961823009. A teardrop tattoo below the corner of the eye represents five years in prison 
  3. ^ "Four Days in the Oaxaca State Prison: Mexico Living". mexconnect.com. Retrieved 3 November 2016. 
  4. ^ "Teardrop Tattoo Meaning: Tattoos With Meaning". tattooswithmeaning.com. 
  5. ^ a b 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. 
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ a b Hooper, Mark (10 December 2007). "Catch of the day: Amy's new tattoo". theguardian.com. Retrieved 3 November 2016 – via The Guardian. 
  8. ^ Binelli, Mark (April 16, 2009). "Life on Planet Wayne". Rolling Stone. pp. 43–47, 73–74. 
  9. ^ Lorenzo, Tom (2012-02-14). "Amar'e Stoudemire Honors His Late Brother By Getting A "Teardrop" Tattoo". Sports Grid. Retrieved 2012-02-28. 
  10. ^ a b Smith, Brendan (April 25, 2008). "Tattoo Regret". Washington City Paper. Retrieved 2010-09-20. 
  11. ^ 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. 
  12. ^ "No-one knows why Ricardo Quaresma has two tear tattoos on his face". dreamteamfc.com. 18 June 2016. Retrieved 3 November 2016.