Crying Heart Tattoo Meaning

The crying heart tattoo is a very specific tattoo design that features a heart-shaped face with almond-shaped eyes and an upside down smile that often has the same angle as the eyes, but upside down. The eyes are wide and often with intricate eyelashes, and there are tears to show the heart is crying.

The crying heart tattoo meaning is as clear as the tattoo itself with a message of a sad or broken heart. Learn more about the crying heart tattoo meanings and view examples of images that may be appropriate for a crying heart tattoo.

Crying Heart Tattoo Meaning

The crying heart tattoo meaning conveys sadness, pain and suffering, lost love, or a broken heart. The heartbreak and loss don’t necessarily come from the end of a romantic relationship, since the heart can be broken by other types of relationships (friendships, family) and many other things in life.

This tattoo is said to have originated in the early twentieth century, with tattoo artist Bert Grimm often getting credit for this unique tattoo design. The crying heart tattoo is done in a wide range of tattoo styles, and in many variations. As always, the true meaning of the crying heart tattoo will be specific to the individual that wears it.

The love symbolized in this tattoo often is romantic love, and can be a union as deep as marriage. It could also mean unrequited love, love with complications such as long-distance love, or a love that has depth but is not romantic, such as sisterhood, brotherhood, or a friendship with a kindred spirit that lasts a lifetime. When the crying heart tattoo is altered or paired with other symbols, its meaning takes on specific nuances.

Crying Heart Tattoo Variations

There are many different variations to the crying heart tattoo, making the crying heart tattoo as varied as the symbols it is connected to. The number of tears the crying heart is shedding or the specific emotion shown in the expression of the heart’s face may have meaning for the wearer.

One common variation of the tattoo shows a heart and key with the crying heart. This might symbolize a soulmate connection, or that one is looking for their soulmate. It also can represent that someone is holding the key to someone’s heart.

Scrolls are common symbols to see with tattoos, and they are common with the crying heart tattoo as well. Here, a name is often written on the scroll, or a word professing some undying love.

Irish symbols can frequently be seen in crying heart tattoo variations. In these, you will see two hands and a crown connected to the crying heart, in a symbol known as the Claddagh. This special symbol indicates unconditional love, loyalty, and deep friendship.

A variation of the crying heart tattoo with a more somber meaning is when the heart is blue. This is intentional and indicates a kind of grief over love lost or a kind of sadness.

Crying Heart Tattoo Styles

There are different styles to the crying heart tattoo, and each of them will give a crying heart tattoo a specific look and tone in the meaning.

Blackwork or Traditional

The most common styles of this tattoo are blackwork and traditional, as these tend to be the most affordable. Here you are going to see tattoos that are simply done in black ink and only black ink with blackwork tattoos. Blackwork tattoos tend to represent loss, death, and the associated grief.

Traditional crying heart tattoos might be done with some color, but won’t have the same impact as other colorful tattoos such as watercolor or new school.


In watercolor tattoo designs, the tattoo is created like a painting. Typically they typically don’t have black ink line borders — instead they have softer borders and gradients where the colors blend together. The appearance is that of a watercolor painting which is what gives this style of tattoo design its name.

Watercolor tattoos are performed in the exact same way as any other kind of tattoo, but the artist will use different fading and blurring techniques to create the watercolor effect. The crying heart in watercolor is a stunning image.


A realism tattoo is one of the most popular tattoo styles coveted by tattoo afficionados, and this kind of tattoo for the crying heart is incredible. This is not a design that just any tattoo artist can do and because of the artistic skill required, realism tattoo artists are on the higher end of the price range.

New School

New School tattoo design came about in the 70s and was influenced by traditional tattoo design. Dark, heavy outlines and bold, vibrant colors, and an exaggerated representation of images are characteristic of new school tattoos. The development of better quality ink allowed new school tattooists to use more colors than were available for traditional/old school tattoos.

A new school crying heart tattoo will have a cartoony appearance and might not convey quite the sense of sadness that other styles of the tattoo will.

Crying Heart Tattoo Considerations

The message of the crying heart is straightforward — this is a sad tattoo. Few symbols need to be placed with it to set the tone. Some wearers opt for additional imagery and brighter colors so that the message doesn’t seem so dark.

Blackwork crying heart tattoos might express a darker meaning than you intend. A skilled tattoo artist who has a lot of experience with crying heart images can help design a blackwork style crying heart that lines up with the meaning the tattoo has for you. Being creative with the heart’s expression as well as the use of other images in the tattoo can set exactly the tone you want for your tattoo.

Crying Heart Tattoo Placement

The crying heart tattoo can be placed anywhere, so it’s really up to your personal preference for how prominently you want the tattoo displayed. It is often placed on the forearm, but is also done on the chest or near the heart area.

Smaller ones are created on the wrists or ankles. On the back of a neck is another common location.

Crying Heart Tattoo Examples

There is a basic similarity among most crying heart tattoos that identifies them as a crying heart tattoo. But there is plenty of room for creative license and customization that you can discuss with your selected tattoo artist. The following are just three examples to give you ideas for your own crying heart tattoo design.

Example 1: In this design, the tattoo is a blackwork crying heart tattoo, with black ink being used as the backdrop for this tattoo. This is a very simple example of the crying heart tattoo but it has a classic tattoo art feel to it.

Blackwork image of a crying heart -- this image expresses a crying heart tattoo meaning of deep sadness.

Example 2: A crying heart can also be done in watercolor, or in a variety of colors. This red crying heart tattoo makes a very bold statement.

You can have the eyes or mouth of the crying heart altered to convey a more specific emotion. In this example, the crying heart tattoo expression could be shock or anger.

A color image of a crying heart mostly in red colors -- this creates a crying heart tattoo meaning of sadness, but also possibly anger or outrage.

Example 3: Old school (traditional) tattoo style uses bold lines a more limited color palette. This example adds artistic elements that create a different meaning than one of a broken heart. Here you see symbols that suggest angels and light along with a crying heart face image.

A color image of a crying heart surrounded by wings and design elements that look like lightning bolts.  This design creates a crying heart tattoo meaning that suggests a loss due to a person passing away.

There are unlimited ways to make a crying heart tattoo a unique piece of body art like no one else’s.


A crying heart tattoo has a pretty simple and straightforward meaning behind it — there is a sad or broken heart somewhere in the person’s life. Most often the sadness is over a romantic relationship that has ended (or that never had its chance), but there are other relationships that can break a person’s heart besides romantic ones and the crying heart image can symbolize the person’s grief.

There are numerous variations of a crying heart tattoo in terms of the tattoo art style you can select, details included in the tattoo design, and color choices. Work with your tattoo artist so that your crying heart tattoo expresses what it means to you.

To learn about the meanings behind other tattoo images, click here to read articles in our Tattoo Meanings series.

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