The teardrop tattoo or tear tattoo is a symbolic tattoo that is placed underneath the eye. The tattoo has several connotations. Teardrop tattoos usually signify the loss of a friend or loved one. An empty tear signifies that the loved one has been killed or that the bearer has unsuccessfully attempted murder. A filled tattoo signifies that a loved one has taken his or her own life, or was killed by a cause other than murder (car crash, death penalty, etc.) A tear with an empty top and a full bottom means that the wearer has avenged the murder of a loved one. The majority of the 'tear tattoos' seen in popular culture today, however, signifies that the wearer has killed, with the number of tears representing the number of kills.
It is a tattoo that is almost always associated with prison tattoos and membership in a gang. Tear tattoos, when given in prison, are primarily to indicate that the bearer has murdered someone, either in or out of jail. The tattoo can also be given to commemorate a loved one who died while the wearer was incarcerated.
In Australian prisons, teardrop tattoos are often forcibly given to convicted child molesters by other inmates.