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 of a tear that is placed underneath the eye.


The tattoo can have several meanings. In the United States, it can signify that the wearer has killed someone.[1] Alternatively in Mexico, the number of teardrops may indicate the number of times the wearer was raped while in prison.[2] It may also indicate the wearer has been imprisoned or indicate the loss of a loved one or fellow gang member.[3][4]

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.

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]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Smith, Brendan (April 25, 2008). "Tattoo Regret". Washington City Paper. Retrieved 2010-09-20. 
  2. ^ http://www.mexconnect.com/articles/3624-four-days-in-the-oaxaca-state-prison
  3. ^ 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. 
  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.