Tear Drop Tattoo Meaning – What You Should Know About It

It might look like a pretty little tattoo, but have you tried to discover what tear drop tattoo meaning is all about?

Tear drop tattoos do appear cute, I agree, and this is all thanks to some famous musicians like Amy Winehouse and Lil Wayne that have made it popular.

But before you tattoo this particular tattoo on your body, you should at least know what it signifies.

Without wasting any time, here is what you should know about tear drop tattoo.

Tear Drop Tattoo Meaning

Tear Drop Tattoo Meaning

Although it dates back in time, but the first time this tattoo was mentioned was in 1970 when a Mexican gang member was featured in a publication by New Yorker detailing how he spent his time serving in a US correctional facility.

For many people, the tear drop tattoo signifies that the person wearing it has served time in prison.

While this may be so, it’s not entirely true.

Some people wear theirs for an entirely different reason.

Then again, we can thank movies and the music world for helping to further popularize this tattoo.

People now want to try out this tattoo to show that they are tough. Funny enough, many of them haven’t even seen the four walls of a prison.

Back to where it all started, the tear drop tattoo is applied differently depending on the prison.

In some prisons, inmates get this tattoo to show their pain and struggle.

For some others, this tattoo signifies their yearning for family, friends, and ultimately, freedom.

However, the most notorious crime committers in some prisons are proud to wear this tattoo. Their aim is to show off how they have been involved in taking people’s lives.

It is common to see this tattoo tattooed on the face of the wearer. Some have theirs under their right eye and others have theirs on the left.

In fact, some of these inmates tattoo as many tear drops according to the number of people they have killed.

No other tattoo is known to have such negative connotation like that of tear drop.

The tear drop tattoo could also be a way of people telling others that they have served time in prison.

While this may not be something to boast about, some believe that having such tattoo will attract more respect.

Others may wear this tattoo to remind themselves of the horrible times they spent in prison and why they should never go back.

Since we are still on the topic of tear drop tattoo meaning, we shall also look at what it means according to the outline of the tattoo and the side of the face it’s placed.

What Colored, Filled and Outlined Tear Drop Tattoo Means

Filled and Outlined Tear Drop Tattoo Means

The appearance and meaning of this tear drop tattoo varies according to the preference of the wearer.

It also varies according to the experience the wearer had while in prison.

In some cases, the tattoo is filled with red, green or blue color.

The outlined tear drop tattoo usually symbolizes that the inmate was charged for nearly executing a murder crime.

A filled in tattoo in some prisons mean that the inmate is sentenced to life in prison because of murder.

For people that just want to depict the struggles they are going through without being mistaken for committing a crime, they prefer to have theirs on their fingers.

Such people personalize the tattoo by filling it with blue color and a white highlight.

Pink and other soft colors can be used to make the tear drop tattoo more feminine.

But like I said earlier, this differs from prison to prison.

Meaning of the positioning of the tattoo

In the US, for example, the side of face a tear drop tattoo is inked further defines what it means.

A tattoo on the left side of the face, in some cases mean that the wearer have killed someone.

However, people might decide to wear their tattoo on the right side of the face as a remembrance of a lost loved one.

There are actually no hard and fast rules about where a tattoo should be placed.

Neither is it compulsory that having your tattoo on the left side of the face signifies murder or vice versa.

Ideally, it is not right to judge someone based on their tattoo or where it is positioned.

Even crime-free people love this tattoo and get inked for different reasons.

Should you get a tear drop tattoo?

It’s true that the tear drop tattoo is gaining much popularity.

However, it doesn’t remove the fact that a lot of people associate it with crime, especially murder.

While a celebrity might get away with this tattoo even when they have not committed a crime, you may not be so lucky if you try it.

Staying true to yourself without having to choose this particular tattoo would be the best option.

Why Tear Drop Tattoos Are Popular

Tear drop tattoos is one sure way to attract people to yourself.

The curiosity surrounding this tattoo is another thing that captures the interest of some of the wearers.

Coming back to why this practice has become popular, the intrigues and danger associated with this tattoo makes it even more fascinating for some people.

And in the prison, tear drop tattoo sometimes can be a symbol of pride and to ward off other prisoners.

Another reason this tattoo is popular is that recently, people now get the tattoo in an attempt to oppose the regular belief.

In addition, tear drop tattoo has become popular because people use it as a sign of grief for a lost loved one.

You will likely see them tattoo the initials of their loved one with the tear drop tattoo.

Not very popular, but another reason people get this tattoo is to show solidarity to an incarcerated loved one.

Take singer Amy Winehouse, for instance. She got one inked on herb to tell the world that her boyfriend was unjustly imprisoned.

Best Placement for Tear Drop Tattoo

The best place to have this tattoo is under the eyes. That way, the tattoo will look like a real tear.

It does take a bold mind to carry it out.

The intention is for everyone to see their struggle or sadness. And underneath the eye is just the perfect place for this.

This tattoo can be on either side of the face.

Another common place you will find this tattoo is on one finger. This is commonly associated with those that are going through depression or hidden struggles.

If you don’t want yours underneath the eye, you can have it on your index finger. This is the best position since you can always place your index finger close to your eye to signify falling tears.

Frequently Asked Questions About Tear Drop Tattoo

Do people discriminate against people with tear drop tattoo?

Tear drop tattoo is popularly associated with crime. And so, it’s common to see people form a negative opinion about people with such tattoos. Famous artists may get away with this tattoo with no damage on their image. But a common person may suffer some form of discrimination.

Can I get a temporary tear drop tattoo?

Yes, you can. In fact, it is advisable that you first go with a temporary ink if you want to tattoo this on your face. Inking a permanent one may be harder to remove when you no longer want it.

What do multiple tear drop tattoos mean?

Typically, it represents the number of murder the wearer has committed. This is usually among prison inmates.


The tear drop tattoo may appear cute, and is unarguably one of tattoo culture’s most interesting phenomena.

But at least you now know what it symbolizes.

While it may be growing popular, it still has a lot of negative connotations to it.

You should really give a tear drop tattoo deep thinking before committing to it, especially if you want to tattoo it on your face.

But don’t give up on getting one if you so desire. Go for a tattoo artist that specializes on face tattoos to avoid messing it up.

And as long as the tattoo holds a special meaning to you, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.

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About the author

I’m S.R Bhuiyan, a proud Tattoo artist. I will share the body art journey with you here in PrettyJust. I have 10+ years of experience in the field of tattoo, piercing, nail art, and skincare. Check out my bio which has my tattoo studio/cat/travel pics!

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