Teardrop Tattoos and Their Meaning

Teardrop tattoos are one of the most intriguing tattoo designs you’ll find, partly because all categories of people wear them, from famous musicians like Lil Wayne and Amy Winehouse to gangsters and everyday Joes.

These tattoos come in a wide range of designs and may be combined with one or more other tattoo options.

They are a popular option across ink shops all over the world, but should you get one? Do you know all the hidden meanings associated with such a design? Read on.

Scientists are yet to establish a unifying reason for why we cry and shed tears, but in humans, tears represent a response to emotional stimuli. They run down your face when you are crying as a result of sadness, anger, remorse or joy.

Generally, however, we have learned to associate tears with negative emotions only. When you see someone shedding tears at the mall without a backstory, for example, you’ll automatically assume they are in some form of distress.

What Do Teardrop Tattoos Mean?

The meaning of teardrop tattoos remains a hot debate that will not end anytime soon. However, there are a few widely accepted meanings.

Loss, Hardship, or Grief

Teardrop tattoos can signify that the individual has spent some time in prison, during which he or she was a victim of abuse. The tattoos on the face are usually a mark to show dominance by the abusers and their cohorts. 

Some teardrop tattoos are an acknowledgment of the loss of a loved one. Lil Wayne, Amar’e Stoudemire and The Game are examples of people with such tattoos.

These are the most common meanings that are usually associated with teardrop tattoos. However, it’s not always doom and gloom with these kinds of tattoos.

Positive Meanings and Popular Culture

Johnny Depp has a teardrop tattoo as a heartthrob in the 1990 film Cry- Baby, the character has the ability to shed one single tear at will.

They can be an object of admiration and self-preservation. Some of the people with this tattoo intend to be perceived as a counterculture and against typical. To be honest, this is a pretty bold move that commands respect, right?

Teardrop Tattoo Design

The design and placement can hold certain meanings. It all comes down to the wearer of the tattoo. To find the true meaning of a teardrop tattoo, you have to talk to the person wearing it and hope they are honest with you.

Single Teardrop Tattoo

This design features a single small or medium-sized tattoo under one eye. The teardrop can be filled or clear. Another small-sized tattoo often accompanies it on the opposite eye, such as a cross or a sword.

Multi Teardrop Tattoo

Multi teardrop tattoos designs focus on the area around one eye. The teardrops can be arranged in a definite pattern or scattered across the area in focus. The individual tear drops can be ink-filled or clear.

Colored Teardrop Tattoo

Some teardrop tattoo designs feature a colored fill. Women typically favor these designs as a fashion statement. In some cases, the outer lines of the design feature a different color from the ink-fill.

Common Teardrop Tattoo Colors and Combinations

The vast majority of teardrop tattoos come in black ink. This is the look you should go for if you want a tattoo that doesn’t stand out too much on your face. If you are going for a daring or rebellious look, however, you can choose any ink-color of your choice for your tattoo design. 

If you want to make a feminine fashion statement, you could opt for a pink teardrop tattoo.

When combined with other tattoos, teardrop designs can take on a whole new meaning. There are no limits to the combinations possible. Some popular tattoo options combined with teardrops include:

  • Eyeballs
  • Stars
  • Knives
  • A crucifix
  • Stabbed heart
  • The all-seeing-eye
  • Diamonds

Common Placement for Teardrop Tattoos

As you’d expect, the face is the most popular placement for a teardrop tattoo. However, people who combine teardrop tattoos with other options can place their tattoos anywhere else on the body. Popular options include the areas around the shoulder (back or chest region), the lower back area, the legs, and the fingers.

Placing your teardrop tattoos in parts of your body hidden from plain sight instead of your face is an excellent way to avoid drawing unnecessary attention.

Should You Choose a Teardrop Tattoo?

With the deep meanings associated with teardrop tattoos, getting one is not a decision you should take lightly. If you get a teardrop tattoo willingly, it shows some element of rebellion or bravado. You want to communicate something about yourself to the world.

Some wearers of this tattoo erroneously feel it will communicate violence and fear. They are capitalizing on one of the commonly accepted meanings of teardrop tattoos to show-off (most times false) bravado. Other wearers of teardrop tattoos are in grief over a loss or in regret over a past action or inaction.

Important Considerations Before You Get One

Facial tattoos are big decisions. They may be expressive of a free-spirit, but be wary of designs that are associated with gang activity.

A teardrop tattoo under the eye or on the cheek are often associated with gangs. An outlined one symbolism mourning a gang member who died. 

Mourning a loved one could feel like a good reason to get a teardrop tattoo in the early days following their demise. However, such a permanent reminder of your loss may not be suitable for your mental health in the long run. 

This is also something you should consider if you are choosing a teardrop tattoo as a mark of self-pity after becoming a victim of violence.

A filled teardrop tattoo could symbolize the wearer killed someone. The number of filled teardrop tattoos usually indicates how many people the gang member has killed.

If your reason for getting a teardrop tattoo is to give off a vibe of violence or “street-credibility”, you need to think through your decision properly for two reasons.

Firstly, many gangs around the world may take offense at your tattoo if you travel to areas where teardrop tattoos hold deeper meanings such as murder or allegiance to a specific gang. Even when you are not under immediate threat, it is never a great idea to draw the attention of any gangs under any circumstances.

Secondly, you could overcome your need to put up a violent front as you grow older. How will you cope with the tattoo regret that will follow?

Professional and Inter-Relationship Problems

Even when you get a teardrop tattoo as a fashion statement, and without any deep meanings tied to it, the general public can give it a meaning for you. This could cause problems for you in the future. 

Some workplaces could discriminate against you as they’ll want to avoid associating their business with any of the negative meanings tied to a teardrop tattoo.

Similarly, you may find yourself regularly explaining how your tattoo has nothing to with a criminal past, prison-time or a gang affiliation to a prospective romantic partner.

There is also the danger that you will become suspect once there’s been a crime in your area. Key witnesses may point out suspects with facial tattoos even when they are not 100% certain of the individual’s involvement in the crime.

The Takeaway

If you have weighed your options and still want to get a teardrop tattoo, consider placing the designs in non-conspicuous areas of your body such as your chest or back regions, or your fingers.

Teardrop Tattoo Examples