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 tattoo can have various meanings: it can signify that the wearer has killed someone[1] or has spent time in prison;[2] that the wearer was raped while incarcerated and tattooed with a tear drop below the eye by the offending party and his accomplices,[3][4] or it can acknowledge the loss of a family or fellow gang member. Sometimes, only the wearer will know the exact meaning of the tattoo.[4][5] The tattoo’s meaning also can change depending on whether the tear is empty or is filled with ink. [1]

The tattoo is sometimes worn by the female companions of prisoners in solidarity with their loved ones.[6] 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.[citation needed]

US rappers The Game and Lil Wayne have teardrop tattoos signifying the death of friends.[7][8] Amy Winehouse had a teardrop tattooed to mark her distress at husband Blake Fielder-Civil remaining on remand at Pentonville Prison.[8] Basketball player Amar'e Stoudemire has had a teardrop tattoo since 2012; honoring his older brother Hazell Jr. who had died in a car accident.[9] A teardrop tattoo is worn by Portuguese footballer Ricardo Quaresma.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Smith, Brendan (April 25, 2008). "Tattoo Regret". Washington City Paper. Retrieved 2010-09-20. 
  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". exconnect.com. Retrieved 3 November 2016. the victim of rape is tattooed with a tear drop below the eye by the offending party 
  4. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ 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. 
  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. ^ Binelli, Mark (April 16, 2009). "Life on Planet Wayne". Rolling Stone. pp. 43–47, 73–74. 
  8. ^ a b Hooper, Mark (10 December 2007). "Catch of the day: Amy's new tattoo". theguardian.com. Retrieved 3 November 2016 – via The Guardian. 
  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. ^ "No-one knows why Ricardo Quaresma has two tear tattoos on his face". dreamteamfc.com. 18 June 2016. Retrieved 3 November 2016.