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Permanent mark or design made on the body by pigment introduced through ruptures in the skin. The term is also loosely applied to the inducement of scars (cicatrization). Tattooing has been practiced in most parts of the world, and examples have been found on Egyptian and Nubian mummies dating from 2000 BC. Decoration is perhaps the most common motive, though designs may also serve to identify rank, status, or membership and are thought by some to provide magical protection against sickness or misfortune. The word comes from Tahiti, where it was recorded by James Cook's expedition in 1769. The first electric tattooing implement was patented in the U.S. in 1891.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on tattoo, visit Britannica.com.