The teardrop tattoo has grown in popularity in recent years thanks to the fact that quite a few famous people, including rapper Lil Wayne and singer Amy Winehouse, have gotten one. Most people see the teardrop tattoo as one of the most recognizable prison tattoos, but the fact is that it can have many other different meanings as well. It’s certainly not a tattoo for everyone, but for some people it is the perfect way to express how they feel.
Initially the “stick and poke”-style teardrop tattoo was placed underneath the eye, representing shedding a tear. What’s interesting about this is that you really have little information about the person with the tattoo besides this. You can’t really assume what the meaning is, either, since it can range from being very dark to the very sad. Most people do still assume that there are negative meanings attached to the teardrop regardless of who’s wearing it, but the fact still remains that it can hold a wide range of meanings.
The teardrop tattoo is a symbol that has had negative connotations since it is most often associated with gangs and criminal activities. However, in more recent years the symbol has retained its antisocial origins but has become trendy or topical to some who receive the tattoo for reasons other than crime.
This tattoo is generally placed on the face underneath one or both eyes especially when it is intended as a symbol of one’s crimes, but it can be placed anywhere and often is designed for small areas of the body like the fingers.
Popular Teardrop Tattoo Meanings
Often the teardrop tattoo is meant to indicate that the individual has committed murder. People in prison often have these tattoos both as a symbol of pride and to keep other prisoners from messing with them. In some cases you will see that people will get a teardrop tattoo for every murder that they have committed, so there are sometimes three or more teardrops in a line going down the sides of their faces.
The teardrop tat can also indicate other serious crimes that have nothing to do with murder. In fact, the teardrop can symbolize criminal behavior in general, not just one specific type of crime. Again, this could be a sign of pride for the wearer or just a way to fit in with other criminals.
It is also very common for people to get the teardrop tattoo to show that they have served prison time. It might not seem like this is the type of thing that people would want to boast about, but in some circles it warrants respect, hence why they get the tattoo. Similarly, someone might get their teardrop design to remind themselves that they do not want to go back to prison, though this is definitely the rarer of the two meanings.
Multiple teardrops can represent multiple murders, or might represent the number of years that have been served in prison. Sometimes each teardrop represents one person murdered or one year in jail, while in other cases each one can represent 10 or 20 people or years apiece. The number itself does not usually hold a significant meaning, but it is a way to differentiate one teardrop tattoo from all of the others.
Because there is not necessarily any remorse over these crimes, the teardrop becomes an ironic symbol as a tear typically reveals sadness. It is a common misconception that the owner of the teardrop tattoo is sad about something when in fact they are actually very proud of whatever the tears represent. But, as you will see below, these days plenty of people do get teardrops to actually symbolize some type of sadness.
In some cases, the teardrop is a symbol of remorse and is received after a prison sentence has been served. The teardrop in this way is a reminder of past mistakes and motivation to choose a more fulfilling lifestyle. In these cases people usually only get one teardrop in their tattoos. This is actually one of the only face tattoos that symbolize remorse.
More appropriately, the teardrop tattoo can serve as a memorial or tribute to a lost loved one with or without any gang affiliations. The teardrop is a representation of grief and the indelibility of the tattoo emphasizes the duration of sadness. To make these types of tattoos more unique, the owners will sometimes include the initials of the lost person or some other type of symbol that reminds them of the deceased.
Other Teardrop Tattoo Meanings
A rarer version of the teardrop tattoo is when the significant other or partner of an inmate gets the tattoo to symbolize their solidarity to their incarcerated loved one. The tattoo becomes a sign of acceptance and brings a sense of closure for the individual in mourning or awaiting their loved one’s release from prison. A popular example of this is when singer Amy Winehouse got her teardrop when she felt that her boyfriend was unjustly in prison and she wanted the world to see that she would always support him.
Another lesser-known reason for getting a teardrop tattoo is when a person is struggling with their inner demons. Often people with drug problems or past gang affiliations will get these tattoos not as a badge of honor, but instead to separate themselves from those things. The tears show the person’s sadness and pain, for sure, but they also show that they recognize that they do have some problems and are actively working on making things better for themselves.
The teardrop may be rendered more like a heart shape with a double-curved top or bottom to introduce a love theme into the symbol. This can also be done with memorial tattoos or with more traditional love tattoos. Even though many other love tattoos are more popular than the teardrop, some see this as one of the best ones because the owner is willing to show their love for another individual on their face for the rest of their lives.
The teardrop tattoo meaning has been changed by some people in recent years to represent counterculture and opposing the typical. They know that when people see their teardrop designs that they will assume that something is a bit different about them, which exactly what they want people to think. It is a way to bring attention to themselves, not because they want the attention but instead to show that they don’t have to live by the accepted norms to have a good life. Of course, in some cases these people really do have a problem with the way things are going in society and want to bring attention that.
Regardless of the style or type of teardrop tattoo someone gets, it is a personal symbol the meaning of which is stored and held closely by the individual. You’ll often find that the people who get teardrop tattoos don’t want to share the meanings with others. That is completely understandable, but it is also why a lot of people who see the tattoos assume that the people have been to jail or even committed murder at some point in their lives.
Teardrop Tattoo Designs and Placement
As a criminal or prison tattoo, the way that the teardrop is composed clarifies the significance of the tattoo. An outline of a teardrop is a symbol of mourning and grief for the death of a friend or family member while a solid, colored teardrop represents that that death has been avenged. The tattoo may begin as only an outline and then be filled in after the individual has sought revenge. Typically, black or a traditional old school blue color is used for these tattoos and it is very rare to see any other, brighter colors used as the symbol is very somber.
An initial may be placed inside the teardrop to specify the deceased or it may be left blank, or filled in completely. This is most often done in very simple script, though there are some cases where the space inside of the teardrop is a bit wider so the text can be customized to the owner’s liking.
Placed on a finger or anywhere on the body not underneath the eye, the teardrop tattoo can be a personal symbol of a struggle with some sort of trauma or tragedy. The teardrop represents sadness, depression, and possible mourning in this way and can be designed in a variety of ways. When not on the face, it is most often found on the finger or multiple drops on multiple fingers. It is generally placed on the index finger or fingers so that the finger(s) can be placed under the eye to represent falling tears. In this way, the teardrop tattoo is a symbol of emotion without having to receive a tattoo on the face. Tears on the fingers are usually colored a light blue and given white highlighting to add depth to the image. Other colors are used to help personalize the tattoo, such as pink or other soft colors to feminize the symbol, or a pattern or favorite color.
Teardrops can be incorporated into other symbols in order to enhance the intention of that symbol. The semicolon is often used as a representation of someone who has survived suicide or depression. The comma of the semicolon can be adopted into a teardrop shape to emphasize the hardship that was experienced. For a more obvious symbol, the teardrop can be made to appear dripping from an eye, ensuring that the intent of the tattoo is clear. A teardrop falling from an eye is a representation of sadness, a very personal struggle. Or, rather than sadness, the teardrop can symbolize emotionality and passion.
Is the Teardrop Tattoo Right for You?
We highly recommend taking some time to think it over before you commit to getting a teardrop tattoo since it is a tat that often goes on the face and a lot of people will assume that it has very negative meanings. Sure, there are some more positive meanings cropping up these days for the teardrops, but you have to know that most people will think the worst when they see this type of tattoo. It definitely ranks up there near the top of the list of tattoos that people regret getting because it is so visible at all times.
If you do decide to get a teardrop tattoo, be sure to have it done by an experienced tattoo artist who has worked on facial tattoos in the past. Since it is a tattoo that everyone will be able to see, you will want to work with someone who recognizes that and goes all-out to ensure that you end up with a teardrop that you are proud to have on your skin.