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Teardrop tattoos are most frequently seen on celebrities’ faces (close to one or both eyes) in TV shows and certain crime fiction.
Due to its association with some people’s criminal past and lives, the teardrop tattoo has generated considerable controversy, being a prison tattoo for a very long time.
However, the true meaning of the teardrop tattoo depends greatly on the individual and their experiences.
So, what then is teardrop tattoo meaning? In this blog, I will be sharing with you what teardrop tattoos really mean, their origin, and their different tattoo designs and placements.
A Brief History of the Origin of Teardrop Tattoos
The teardrop tattoo is thought to have a lengthy history. History may forget the tattoo’s problematic beginnings.
This is because, for the longest time, it has been connected to jail life and all of its possible drawbacks.
The first textual evidence for teardrop tattoos was mentioned in the 1970s in a New York news piece about a Mexican gang member who had served time in a U.S. prison.
Nonetheless, this news was the first possible appearance of teardrop tattoos among the general public.
This was the first time that anybody had heard of the teardrop tattoo being used as a prison tattoo, and it was created for a variety of emotions, including grief over the loss of a prisoner, some criminal activity occurring inside the cells, and others.
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The conflict inside the prison cells was also symbolized by the teardrop, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
Some prisoners got a tiny tattoo by the corner of their eyes to indicate they have been imprisoned—and to inspire terror and respect, perhaps similar to a battle scar.
This is done to signal their imprisonment and to represent the meaning of a teardrop (grief, agony, sadness).
According to various legendary stories surrounding the teardrop symbolism in tattoos, it was once thought that the more subservient prisoner would be forced to obtain a teardrop tattoo by the more aggressive, hostile, and impatient inmates who wanted to establish their supremacy.
The majority of the time, this would happen when the more dominant inmate would act violently and disrespectfully toward the less dominant inmate, treating him poorly and even raping them.
In other prisons, the most powerful prison inmates who committed the most crimes would be the proud owners of teardrop tattoos.
Some persons were thought to have killed numerous people and were utilizing this tattooing technique to keep track of the number of homicides by getting numerous teardrop tattoos on their faces, generally under the right eye but occasionally under both.
What Does Teardrop Tattoos Mean?
Generally, teardrop tattoo meaning comes from a place of an individual’s ordeal and experiences and can vary depending on the geography.
Therefore, you need to speak with the individual who has the tattoo to understand its hidden meanings.
Here are five (5) popular meanings/symbolism of teardrop tattoos.
1. Symbol of criminal behavior
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The trend of teardrop tattoos has frequently been linked to meanings related to criminal behaviors, criminal histories, prison life, street fights, and murders.
The teardrop tattoo may also be a sign of other grave offenses unrelated to murders. In actuality, rather than only one particular sort of crime, the teardrop might represent criminal behavior in general.
Getting a teardrop tattoo may be a source of pride for the wearer or perhaps an attempt to blend in with other criminals.
Also, in some prisons, violent prison inmates routinely tattoo the teardrop on their submissive inmates and frequently do it personally to inspire terror and demonstrate control.
2. Symbol of grieving and mourning
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A teardrop tattoo might be used to symbolize having gone through or going through a season of suffering, grief, or mourning of the loss of a loved one, friend, or relative.
Getting teardrop tattoos for grief or mourning is when you lost a dear friend or family to death as a result of street violence between particular gang, and violence during protests and demonstrations. The teardrops in this case are supposed to mourn and honor these people.
Celebrities like Lil Wayne, The Game, and other popular artists and rappers got tattoos of teardrops to emphasize the loss of loved ones and dear colleagues to street violence between different gangs.
3. Symbol of challenges and hardships
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The teardrop tattoo is typically connected with the hardship, sorrow, and occasionally loneliness of being incarcerated, as well as with the longing for freedom, family, friends, and loved ones.
Teardrop tattoos can also symbolize the hardship brought on by various challenges, circumstances, and feelings.
Prisoners occasionally get a teardrop tattoo to recognize and emphasize the emotions of trials and obstacles that imprint them during their time behind bars.
4. Symbol of strength and perseverance
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Teardrop tattoos represent a symbol of strength, bravery, and fortitude. Perseverance and persistence are signs of strength and the capacity to stick with one’s goals despite the difficulties one encounters.
A teardrop drawn may symbolize strength for people who need to survive some harsh times and situations to be able to emerge stronger.
5. Symbol of love and support
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If a woman has a teardrop tattoo, it may indicate that she is supporting a partner or other loved one who is incarcerated. The teardrop represents love or support in a particular situation.
One such tattoo with this concept has been spotted on Amy Winehouse, who got it inscribed on her face to support her jailed spouse who overdosed on drugs and ended up in prison.
Various teardrop tattoo designs and their meanings
Depending on what the teardrop means to different individuals, they get a teardrop tattoo of various designs.
Below is a list of the various designs of teardrop tattoos and their respective meaning.
Single teardrop tattoo design
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A single teardrop design tattoo is a little or medium-sized single teardrop tattoo placed under one eye.
In this style, the teardrop may be filled and may have a little tattoo of a cross or sword to it symbolizing the loss of something.
Colored teardrop tattoo design
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Colored teardrop tattoo designs feature a colored fill from the ink-fill. Typically, women love getting this type of teardrop tattoo to make a fashion statement.
Left eye side face teardrop tattoo design
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The placement of the teardrop tattoo on the left side of the face may mean that the wearer has a criminal record of killing someone in United States prisons.
Generally, the left-sided face teardrop tattoo design symbolizes attempted murder but not 100%.
Right eye side face teardrop tattoo design
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The teardrop tattoo design on the right side of the face signifies the loss of a loved one, family member, or close friend.
On the right side of his face, rapper Lil Wayne has a teardrop-shaped tattoo that he got as a tribute to a friend he lost.
Filled in with solid ink teardrop tattoo design
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A solid ink-filled-in teardrop tattoo design is rumored to signify a committed murder that has been committed. A filled-in teardrop could portray a search for retaliation and vengeance.
Outline teardrop tattoo design
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A teardrop tattoo with only the outline indicates that the murder was only partially committed by the person.
In other situations, just an outline tear tattoo could also be connected to a deceased friend or gang member.
Upside-down teardrop tattoo design
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This design hints that the individual that has the tattoo has experience with incarceration and signifies that the person who humiliated him while he was serving his sentence. It is upside down because the owner wants to hide shame or humiliation.
Multiple teardrop tattoo design
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Multiple teardrop tattoos can be placed in either a specific pattern or randomly throughout the region that is in focus like the eye.
Each teardrop can be either clear or inked and signifies hardships and challenges.
Common body placements for teardrop tattoos
The face is the most common and popular location for a teardrop tattoo. Many tattoo teardrops on their face close to one or both eyes either above or below the eye.
There are other body parts that are common choices for the teardrop tattoo when you don’t want it to be very visible and these include; the back, the chest region of the shoulder, the lower back region, the waist, the legs, and the fingers.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best spot for the teardrop tattoo?
The teardrop tattoo should be best tattooed on the face, preferably near the eyes, as its name suggests.
Teardrop tattoos on other body parts aside from the face would be more appropriately described as a waterdrop rather than a teardrop.
Do only people from prison get teardrop tattoos?
No, nothing prevents you from obtaining a teardrop tattoo even though prisoners are the ones that commonly have one. The teardrop tattoo is typically used to represent one’s struggles.
Is getting a teardrop tattoo bad?
Not really, it depends on the reason for your choice of tattoo and the emotions you want to symbolize.
Final Thoughts – Teardrop tattoo meaning
A teardrop tattoo is a tattoo in the shape of a teardrop commonly tattooed on the face near one or both eyes and popularly known as prison tattoos.
The teardrop tattoo has been closely associated with gang and prison culture, where it often indicates one has served time, one has been humiliated, or one has committed murder.
However, getting a teardrop tattoo means much more depending on the reason why the individual is getting the tattoo.
Others may get such a tattoo to represent sorrow or loss, others to signify strength and perseverance, and others might get to represent their grief or suffering.