15 prison tattoos and their meanings (2022)

By C1 Staff

Jail staff can stay safer by knowing as much as they can about inmates. And sometimes, inmates make it easy to know exactly what they’ve been up to through the use of tattoos.

Here are 15 tattoos and their secret meanings. Know a different meaning for the tattoos displayed here? Share it in the comments. Be sure to check out more of our coverage on prison tattoos, including 15 more prison tattoos and their meanings, 12 Russian prison tattoos and their meanings, and a collection of inmatetakes onprison ink.

15 prison tattoos and their meanings (1)
1488(Photo freetattoodesigns.org)

This number can be found on white supremacist/Nazi inmates. The numbers 14 or 88 on their own can also be used, which sometimes creates confusion.

Fourteen represents fourteen words, which are a quote by Nazi leader David Lane: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White Children.” The 88 is shorthand for the 8th letter of the alphabet twice, HH, which represents Heil Hitler. Typically, these tattoos can be found anywhere on the body.

15 prison tattoos and their meanings (2)
The Cobweb(Photo Timeless Tattoos Glasglow)

Cobwebs typically represent a lengthy term in prison. The symbolism is associated with spiders trapping prey; or criminals trapped behind bars. This tattoo is commonly found on the elbow, signifying sitting around so long with your elbows on the table that a spider made a web on your elbow, though it can also be located on the neck.

If you see a multi-colored web, it’s probably not a prison tattoo; tattoo ‘artists’ in jail rarely have access to colored ink.

(Video) Top 10 Scary Prison Tattoos And What They Mean

15 prison tattoos and their meanings (3)
Teardrop(Photo trendfashion2013)

One of the most widely recognized prison tattoos, the teardrop’s meaning varies geographically. In some places, the tattoo can mean a lengthy prison sentence, while in others it signifies that the wearer has committed murder.

If the teardrop is just an outline, it can symbolize an attempted murder. It can also mean that one of the inmate’s friends was murdered and that they are seeking revenge.

The teardrop has been popularized recently by rappers and other celebrities, but still remains a staple in prisons. Those who are newbies behind bars with a teardrop tattoo will make a lot of enemies, fast.

15 prison tattoos and their meanings (4)
Five-point crown(Photo Gwan Soon Lee Tattoo)

This is the symbol of the Latin Kings gang, which is one of the biggest Hispanic gangs in the U.S. based out of Chicago. The crown will often be accompanied by the letters ALKN, which stands for Almighty Latin Kings Nation. The five points are due to the Latin Kings being an affiliate of the People Nation gang, which is represented by the number five.

Latin Kings have a huge presence both in and out of prison, and their roots go back to the 1940s. Other details of the crown, such as the colors of the jewels in the points, can have a whole other level of hidden meanings.

15 prison tattoos and their meanings (5)
Three dots (Photo Whiserkino)

The three dots tattoo is a common prison tattoo that represents “mi vida loca,” or “my crazy life.” It’s not associated with any particular gang, but with the gang lifestyle itself. This tattoo is typically found on the hands or around the eyes.

It can also carry some religious significance, such as representing Christianity’s holy trinity. The three dot tattoo is often created using a stick-and-poke method, requiring very rudimentary tools.

(Video) Prison Tattoos And Their True Meanings

15 prison tattoos and their meanings (6)
Five dots(Photo My Sarisari Store)

These dots differ greatly from the previous tattoo – five dots represents time done in prison. Also known as the quincunx, the four dots on the outside represent four walls, with the fifth on the inside representing the prisoner.

This tattoo can be found internationally, among both American and European inmates. The dots are typically found on an inmate’s hand, between the thumb and forefinger.

Five dots on other parts of the body can have different meanings, such as an association with the People Nation gang.

15 prison tattoos and their meanings (7)
The clock with no hands(Photo Tattoo Me Pink)

This tattoo is, fairly obviously, representative of ‘doing time’ and doing a lot of it. Those serving a longer sentence might get this tattoo done on their wrist, with watch straps and all, much like a real watch.

The clock face itself can come in a few forms, such as the face of a wall clock or a grandfather clock. Not all clock tattoos are tied to prison; generally just the ones lacking hands.

15 prison tattoos and their meanings (8)
Aryan Brotherhood(Photo Media Lib)

This prison gang has a variety of tattoos to look out for, ranging from ‘AB’ to Nazi symbols like a swastika or SS bolts. The Brotherhood makes up 1 percent of the inmate population, but are responsible for 20 percent of murders inside of U.S. prisons, so identifying these tattoos are extremely beneficial.

The tattoos can also be referred to as Alice Baker, the One-Two, or The Brand.

(Video) Comparison: Dangerous Tattoos and Their Meanings 2

15 prison tattoos and their meanings (9)
Norteño(Photo Know Gangs)

Norteño tattoos represent the Nuestra Familia gang, which is associated with Hispanic gangs in Northern California. Their tattoos include the word Norteño, Nuestra Familia, a sombrero symbol, the letter N or the number 14, symbolizing the 14th letter of the alphabet (yup – the letter N).

The Norteños are rivals of the Suerños, Hispanic gangs based out of Southern California. The unofficial dividing line between the two is in Delano, California. The Norteños identify themselves with red bandanas and mainly get their income from smuggling and distributing cocaine, heroin and meth.

15 prison tattoos and their meanings (10)
La Eme(Photo Police Mag)

‘La Eme,’ or The M, is the symbol of the Mexican Mafia. They are one of the largest and most ruthless prison gangs in the U.S. They’re allied with the Aryan Brotherhood, and have a common enemy in the Nuestra Familia.

La Eme was started not in Mexico, but in Mexican-Americans who were incarcerated in American prisons. La Eme is a Sureño gang, belonging to a large affiliation of Hispanic gangs in Southern California.

15 prison tattoos and their meanings (11)
MS 13(Photo Wikimedia)

The MS 13, also sometimes seen just as MS or 13, is a symbol of the Mara Salvatrucha gang from El Salvador. Typically these tattoos can be found anywhere on the body, but are most often found in highly visible places like the face, hands or neck.

LA Mara Salvatrucha was started in the Los Angeles area by El Salvadoran immigrants. There are now MS-13 chapters all over the U.S. and even in Canada. Their industries range from dealing drugs to child prostitution.

15 prison tattoos and their meanings (12)
Playing cards(Photo Tattos Time)

(Video) Top 10 Most Common Prison Tattoos

Playing cards, or suits of the deck in general, usually indicate an inmate who likes to gamble. This applies to gambling games both within prison and without; it can also represent a person who generally views life as a gamble.

This tattoo is very popular in Russian prisons, where each deck has its own meaning. A spade represents a thief; clubs symbolize criminals in general. Diamonds are reserved for stoolpigeons and informants – if the cards have this deck, then it was likely applied with force. Hearts imply that someone is looking for a romantic partner in the prison, which may also be forcibly applied.

15 prison tattoos and their meanings (13)
EWMN(Photo Turner)

These letters stand for ‘Evil, Wicked, Mean, Nasty.’ Having no particular affiliation with any gang, they simply represent the general disposition of some prison inmates.

Typically found on the knuckles, these types of tattoos were popularized in 1955 by Robert Mitchum in ‘The Night of the Hunter.’ His sociopathic preacher character had the words ‘love’ and ‘hate’ tattooed on the knuckles of each hand, which has brought about other variants such as ‘Rock/Roll’ and ‘Stay/Down.’

15 prison tattoos and their meanings (14)
Cross on the chest(Photo Adimaz)

Particularly found in Russian prisons, chest tattoos symbolize a ‘Prince of Thieves.’ This is the highest rank a Russian convict can achieve, and are generally worn by higher-ups in the mob.

Russian prisons have a unique and intricate history of prison tattoos, each with their own unique meaning. Another example are bells, symbolizing freedom, or a tiger on the chest is symbolic of aggression toward the police.

15 prison tattoos and their meanings (15)
A.C.A.B.(Photo SAS)

This acronym is commonly found on the bodies of British prisoners and stands for “All Cops Are Bastards.”

(Video) Prison Tattoos And What They Really Mean

Some claim that A.C.A.B. also stands for “Always Carry A Bible,” but these are widely believed to be people who regret their tattoo decision. Often found on the knuckles, the tattoo symbolizes a willingness to go to prison for your crew or gang.

Next:15 more prison tattoos and their meanings

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What does a 14 tattoo mean? ›

Fourteen represents fourteen words, which are a quote by Nazi leader David Lane: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White Children.” The 88 is shorthand for the 8th letter of the alphabet twice, HH, which represents Heil Hitler. Typically, these tattoos can be found anywhere on the body.

What do prisoners tattoos mean? ›

what a prisoner's tattoo may signify with 4 Letters
2 more rows

What does 3 dots under the eye mean? ›

“Mi Vida Loca”

The three dots tattoo represents “Mi Vida Loca,” which translates to “my crazy life.” It often means the struggles of the underprivileged and the minorities. It's a way of saying, “my life is crazy, but I'm thankful for it,” or “life may be crazy, but I'm still here.”

What does the tattoo 13 mean? ›

What does a 13 tattoo symbolize? The unlucky number is treated as an antidote to conventional bad luck and identifier to other tattoo enthusiasts. The number 13 is associated with superstitious sailors, prison gangs and outlaws, and old school concepts of alienation and being an outsider.

What does the 17 tattoo mean? ›

Meaning: '17′ is the name of XXX's debut album which released on August 25, 2017. This album has writing over it stating, “my sanity left me when I was 17, my heart broke beyond repair when I was 17, I realized the pain is and always will be a cycle when I was 17.”

What does a 413 tattoo mean? ›

In the bible, Philippians 4 13 reads, “I can do all things through him that strengthens me.” It's interpreted as a statement of faith. It essentially means that a person can do anything with God watching over them. It's simple and easy to understand, making it one of the most popular bible verse tattoos.

What does 5 tally tattoo mean? ›

Sophie Turner has a tattoo on her right ring finger of five tally marks to represent the five members of her family: herself, her mother and father, and her two brothers James and Will Turner.

What does 3 dots mean? ›

They signal either that something has been omitted from quoted text, or that a speaker or writer has paused or trailed off in speech or thought.

What does the tattoo 213 mean? ›

These gangs also used the number "13" to covertly represent the "M," or 13th letter of the alphabet. This symbol is sometimes seen in Roman numerals "XIII" and as "213" as a play on the local area code.

What does 2 teardrop tattoo mean? ›

A teardrop tattoo is a small tattoo in the shape of a teardrop near one or both eyes. It is closely associated with gang and prison culture, where it often indicates one has served time, one has been humiliated, or one has killed. Others may get such a tattoo to represent sorrow or loss.

What does the 2 face tattoo mean? ›

"Laugh now, cry later" tattoos portray two faces or two masks that have expressions that represent opposing or different emotions. This design is sometimes associated with gangs and referred to as a gang tattoo.

What does a tattoo with 3 triangle mean? ›

The valknut tattoo may be the perfect minimalist design for you! Originating around the Middle Ages, this symbol featuring three interlocking triangles has been known to serve as an illustration for the afterlife, rebirth, and the concepts of continuity, order and undying will.

What does a tattoo of 23 mean? ›

Numerical tattoos. 18 – this tattoo represents the Initials of Adolph Hitler. First letter of the alphabet is “A” and the eighth letter is “H”. 23 - Represents the 23rd letter of the alphabet. “W” used by white supremacist and skinheads.

What does three dots in a row mean tattoo? ›

Three dots in a line tattoo

When three dots are designed in a straight line, they are thought to represent that a sentence is not yet complete. This can mean the wearer is still on their life's journey, or is going through a process of change.

What does OTF tattoo mean? ›

3. 'OTF' Tattoo. Tattoo: 'OTF' Tattoo on his right forearm and the left side of his neck. Meaning: OTF is the acronym of collective record label and rapping group 'Only The Family', formed by Lil Durk in 2011.

What does 1111 mean in tattoo? ›

The piece was devoid of any color or additional designs, making it the epitome of minimalist tattoos. The meaning behind angel numbers varies, but 1111 is generally believed to be associated with entering a new cycle — think of it as confirmation that you're on the right path.

What does a 22 tattoo mean? ›

He got the tattoo on his neck a year ago, inking the number of veterans who reportedly commit suicide each day to his neck. It was that “22” on his neck that got the U.S. Marine veteran kicked out of Dierks Bentley's Whiskey Row bar in Gilbert this week.

What does 2 lightning bolts tattoo mean? ›

The tattoo features the double lightning bolt symbol associated with the Nazi SS corps (Schutzstaffel), a murderous paramilitary group that pledged an oath of loyalty to Adolf Hitler and was instrumental in the execution of the Holocaust.

What does 444 mean on a tattoo? ›

444 – The Angel Number

The number 444 is connected to the two Archangels Chamuel and Jophiel. Most of the stories believe that once this number constantly follows someone, it means the two angels are watching them. Furthermore, the presence of 4 is a sign of angelic support and infinite power.

What does the tattoo 311 mean? ›

“88” – Represents the letters “HH” or Hiel Hitler” “311” – Represents the letters “KKK” (Ku Klux Klan) “18” – Represents the Initials of Adolph Hitler.

What does 713 mean in a tattoo? ›

Mexican Mafia

This gang also uses the number 13, standing for “M,” the 13th letter in the alphabet. A 713 on gang member's body will mean that he or she is from the Houston branch (713 is the area code for Houston). Another common symbol for the Mexican Mafia is three dots circling the number 13.

What does 888 mean tattoo? ›

The 888 Tattoo is a symbol for good luck, fortune and prosperity. Because of this, it is a popular tattoo design. People who want to inspire positive energy in their lives tend to get this tattoo.

What does a 51 tattoo mean? ›

A 5150 tattoo is a reference to an emergency psychiatric hold. The number 5150 refers to the California state law for those who are mentally ill and dangerous. It has become part of the urban dictionary. The police and law enforcement often use it.

What does M1 mean tattoo? ›

M1 = Magnums are used for filling large spaces, blending and shading. RM (aka CM or M1C) = Curved Magnums are easier on the skin due to their curvature. For filling, blending and shading in delicate areas that have curvature, like the inner elbow.

What do 3 horizontal dots mean? ›

Of course, in general use, three horizontal dots is known as an ellipsis and is primarily used to represent “the omission from speech or writing of a word or words that are superfluous or able to be understood from contextual clues” (dictionary.com).

What does it mean when a girl puts 3 dots? ›

Screenshot/Tech Insider If you use Apple's iMessage, then you know about the "typing awareness indicator" — the three dots that appear on your screen to show you when someone on the other end of your text is typing. Or so you thought.

What does the 3 periods mean? ›

An ellipsis ( ... ) consists of three evenly spaced periods and is used to indicate the omission of words or suggest an incomplete thought. In general, an ellipsis should be treated as a three-letter word, with a space, three periods and a space.

What does the tattoo 415 mean? ›

Kumi African Nation Organization, also known as 415 or Kumi 415, often incorporate African symbols—including pictures of the continent itself—in their tattoos. For example, a popular tattoo among members of Kumi 415 depicts a yero, or African Warrior, rising up out of an outline of the continent of Africa.

What does a 305 tattoo mean? ›

305) has the Miami area code on his forearm, its zero rendered as the planet Earth; according to a Miami News Times list, a “305” tattoo, ideally acquired while drunk, is a sign of true Miamian identity. Area code tattoos are the bildungsroman of body art.

What does 222 mean in a tattoo? ›

222 tattoo often brings significant meaning. It positively represents the state of balance and a wonderful message of love, faith, harmony, commitment, and trust. It heralds a possibility of new things coming, and you're on the right track to achieve that intuition.

What does a pineapple tattoo mean? ›

In the American South, for example, the fruit is considered a symbol of warmth, welcome, and hospitality, so a pineapple tattoo may represent a sense of home or something personally familiar. They can also symbolize affection, so it's a great idea for a couple or best friend tattoo.

What does a spider web on the elbow mean? ›

They were inked on the elbows to symbolize their loyalty to their group. Spider web tattoos gained popularity in prison systems all across the United States during the late 1900s. Even in modern times, the tattoo is still a popular prison tattoo. But in the late 1970s, to wear such a tattoo would come at great cost.

What does a 7 and 2 tattoo mean? ›

Instead, the wearer is showing the opposite of their cards. It means that if you see this 7-2 tattoo on someone's hands, it means that by meeting this person, you would be dealt the worst possible hand by them. You are best off never meeting them.

What does 2 butterflies mean tattoo? ›

In Greek, butterfly means "soul." In China, two butterflies flying together is a symbol of love.

What do 2 black line tattoos mean? ›

In fact, when one or two solid bands of black are placed around the bicep of a man, it can symbolize his strength and courage. By highlighting the bicep muscle, the solid black band also highlights physical strength too. It's also worth noting that some women also opt for this style of tattoo as well.

What does a 2 snake tattoo mean? ›

The Aztecs worshiped a double-headed serpent and the two heads may have represented the Earth and the underworld. The meaning of this two-headed snake was rebirth because the snake can shed its skin and almost have a new body form. The Aztec snake tattoo can also symbolize energy, wisdom, and power.

What is a 3% tattoo? ›

“With anyone able to declare themselves a Three Percenter, the concept allowed many people to join who were not suited, physically or by inclination, to engage in paramilitary activities,” the ADL site says. “The Three Percenter logo—the Roman numeral III—has become very popular among anti-government extremists.”

What does a tattoo line around your arm mean? ›

It's not uncommon to get one band tattooed for each loss. On a less grim note, the solid armband tattoo can also symbolize strength and luck. The former is especially true if the tattoo is worn on the bicep, where it accentuates the muscular curvature of strong men and women.

What do dot finger tattoos mean? ›

Finger Dot Tattoo

A single dot often represents a 'full stop' – the end of one phase and the start of another. A row of three dots is another popular version of this tattoo. Once often worn by gang members, today, it is associated with living life on your terms.

Can a 14 have a tattoo? ›

The California Conference of Local Health Officers shall establish sterilization, sanitation, and safety standards for persons engaged in the business of tattooing, body piercing, or permanent cosmetics. Tattooing-Establishes that it is a misdemeanor for any person to tattoo or offer to tattoo anyone under age 18.

What does a red 14 tattoo mean? ›

Numeral “14” on his Forehead

Tattoo: Numeral “14” Meaning: Trippie Redd got Numeral 14 inked in red color at the center of his forehead. In an interview, he said, It has two meanings; I grew up in a street called 14th Street. And Then, There's also a religious connection.

Is 14 a good age to get a tattoo? ›

“Sixteen to 18 is acceptable but 14 and 15 is not so acceptable,” he says. The decision was made in part to prevent young adults from using illegal tattoo artists. It's a problem Masterson says he sees all the time and one that can also be very dangerous.

Should I get a tattoo at 14? ›

California law requires a person to be at least 18 years of age in order legally to get a tattoo.

Can you tattoo babies? ›

It is seen as illegal to tattoo a baby, as it is a form of irreversible disfigurement. It is a crime to perform a tattoo on any person under the age of 18 years.

Can I tattoo myself at 13? ›

Nationally, the minimum age requirement in the United States is 18. That means anyone who is 18 or older can be tattooed without parental consent. Getting tattooed as a minor, however, depends on the state you're in. Anyone under the age of 18 is considered a minor.

How much is a tattoo? ›

How much does a tattoo cost? A tattoo's cost depends on the size, complexity of the design, and demand for the artist who is creating it. Pricing for tattoos can vary widely, but $150 to $450 is a typical range.

What does the tattoo 444 mean? ›

The “444” specifically refers to passion and ambition. The number is meant to inspire you to get your act together and move towards something great, don't drag your feet, and reignite and find the things that make you passionate about life. Teen Wolf's Tyler Posey Explains His Tattoos.

What does 3 dots mean? ›

They signal either that something has been omitted from quoted text, or that a speaker or writer has paused or trailed off in speech or thought.

What does 3 dots in a triangle tattoo mean? ›

The three dots, arranged in a triangular shape, can represent a criminal lifestyle alluding to gang membership and serving time in prison. It's not uncommon to see one person with the three dots tattoo with others that have similar tats.

What age do people stop getting tattoos? ›

5. How Old Is Too Old To Get A Tattoo? You're too old to get a tattoo if and when you decide you're too old for a tattoo. Getting a tattoo is not restricted to young people only; everyone can go get a tattoo at any age they want.

What's the youngest I can get a tattoo? ›

In the United States there is no federal law regulating the practice of tattooing. However, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have statutory laws requiring a person receiving a tattoo be at least 18 years old.

What is the best age for tattoo? ›

The legal age to get a tattoo would be 18. There are some areas that allow this to be done at a younger age with parental consent. However, we don't recommend anyone getting a tattoo younger than 18. As long as you're over the minimum required age, there's no right or wrong age to get a tattoo.

Do tattoos grow with you? ›

The tattoo moves with your skin, so in most cases, the tattoo's design will remain proportionate. That means it should look essentially the same, even if you gain weight. Any stretch marks that develop are more likely to affect the look of your ink than your new body size or shape.

What happens if a kid gets a tattoo? ›

In most states, the charges for child abuse and endangerment range from misdemeanor to felony. This means that tattooing a child or allowing your child to be tattooed could lead to anywhere from a year in jail to many years in a federal prison.

Is it illegal to tattoo without a license? ›

Never go to a tattooist or studio that has not been registered or licenced to practice - these are illegal and the artist will probably not have been properly trained and may not be following proper hygienic procedures to prevent infection.


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