It can signify that the wearer has spent time in prison 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.
It can acknowledge the loss of a friend, family member or fellow gang member: US rappers The Game and Lil Wayne have teardrop tattoos signifying the death of friends 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.
The tattoo is sometimes worn by the female companions of prisoners in solidarity with their loved ones: Amy Winehouse had a teardrop drawn on her face in eyeliner after her husband Blake entered the Pentonville prison hospital following a suspected drug overdose.
Sometimes the exact meaning of the tattoo is only known by the wearer: Portuguese footballer Ricardo Quaresma has never explained his teardrop tattoos and whether they have been covered up, removed via laser surgery or simply weren't permanent is yet to be revealed.
- "15 prison tattoos and their meanings: Corrections One".
- 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
- "Prison Tattoos Tell a Story | Prison Legal News".
- "Why getting a tattoo in prison is a really bad idea | Metro News".
- "Four Days in the Oaxaca State Prison: Mexico Living". mexconnect.com. Retrieved 3 November 2016.
the victim of rape is tattooed with a tear drop below the eye by the offending party and his accomplices
- "What does teardrop tattoo mean?". dictionary.com.
a dominant inmate forces the tattoo on a submissive one after being extorted, abused or raped — a form of public humiliation
- "Teardrop Tattoo Meaning: Tattoos With Meaning". tattooswithmeaning.com.
this was a way of “marking” an inmate as the property of another person or humiliating the inmate while in jail, as a tattoo on the face cannot be covered up or hidden
- 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.
- Binelli, Mark (April 16, 2009). "Life on Planet Wayne". Rolling Stone. pp. 43–47, 73–74.
- Lorenzo, Tom (2012-02-14). "Amar'e Stoudemire Honors His Late Brother By Getting A "Teardrop" Tattoo". Sports Grid. Retrieved 2012-02-28.
- 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.
- Lee, Chris (July 13, 2017). "Amy Winehouse's Marriage to Blake Fielder-Civil: Dark Love Affair".
Winehouse appeared in public with a tiny teardrop drawn in eyeliner beneath her left eye.
- 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.
- Fraser, David (18 June 2016). "World Cup 2018: Portugal star Ricardo Quaresma's controversial teardrop tattoos have disappeared and everyone's confused".
- "How the LAPD Turned an Innocent Man Into the 'Teardrop Rapist'".
- Smith, Brendan (April 25, 2008). "Tattoo Regret". Washington City Paper. Retrieved 2010-09-20.