1876, from Fr. massage "friction of kneading," from masser "to massage," possibly from Arabic massa "to touch, feel, handle;" if so, probably picked up in Egypt during the Napoleonic campaign there. Other possibility is that Fr. got it in colonial India from Port. amassar "knead," a verb from L. massa "mass, dough" (see mass (1)). The verb is attested from 1887. Massage parlor first attested 1913, from the start a euphemism for "house of prostitution."