Tattoo: The permanent insertion of ink or other pigments below the skin using a sharp instrument. Human have done tattooing for cosmetic andritual purposes since at least the Neolithic era. In the Western world, tattooing has historically served as a brand of criminality, a sign of shame (like “The ScarletLetter” of Nathaniel Hawthorne), a tradition dating back at least to the biblical mark of Cain. Note along these lines also the branding of slaves, the tattooing ofprisoners of war ancient Athens, and the marking of the foreheads of French prisoners in the 18th and 19th centuries with letters signifying their punishment. In the MiddleAges tattooing was done of Christian pilgrims in Jerusalem, the tattoo symbolizing the “stigmata of the Lord Jesus.” In the Renaissance tattooing was done of astrologicsigns to invoke their magical powers.
Today the practice of tattooing can be made safer trough the use of: non-reactive pigments, sterile disposable needles andsterile work conditions.
Word History: Although the practice of tattooing the body is very old, the English word tattoo is relatively new. The explorer Captain James Cook( who also gave us the word taboo) introduced the word to English speakers in his account of voyage around the world from 1768 to 1771. Like taboo, tattoo fromPolynesian languages such as Tahitian and Samoan. The earliest use of the verb tattoo in English is found in an entry for 1769 in Cook’s diary. Sailors introduced the custominto Europe from the Pacific societies in which it was practiced, and it has remained associated with sailors, although many landlubbers now get tattoos as well.