1 [ta-too]
noun, plural tattoos.
a signal on a drum, bugle, or trumpet at night, for soldiers or sailors to go to their quarters.
a knocking or strong pulsation: My heart beat a tattoo on my ribs.
British. an outdoor military pageant or display.

1570–80; earlier taptoo < Dutch taptoe literally, the tap(room) is to (i.e., shut) Unabridged


2 [ta-too]
noun, plural tattoos.
the act or practice of marking the skin with indelible patterns, pictures, legends, etc., by making punctures in it and inserting pigments.
a pattern, picture, legend, etc., so made.
verb (used with object), tattooed, tattooing.
to mark (the skin) with tattoos.
to put (tattoos) on the skin.

1760–70; < Marquesan tatu; replacing tattow < Tahitian tatau

tattooer, tattooist, noun
untattooed, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
Cite This Source Link To tattoos
World English Dictionary
tattoo1 (tæˈtuː)
n , pl -toos
1.  (formerly) a signal by drum or bugle ordering the military to return to their quarters
2.  a military display or pageant, usually at night
3.  any similar beating on a drum, etc
[C17: from Dutch taptoe, from the command tap toe! turn off the taps! from tap tap of a barrel + toe to shut]

tattoo2 (tæˈtuː)
vb , -toos, -tooing, -tooed
1.  to make (pictures or designs) on (the skin) by pricking and staining with indelible colours
n , -toos, -tooing, -tooed, -toos
2.  a design made by this process
3.  the practice of tattooing
[C18: from Tahitian tatau]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
Cite This Source
Word Origin & History

"signal," 1688, "signal calling soldiers or sailors to quarters at night," earlier tap-to (1644, in order of Col. Hutchinson to garrison of Nottingham), from Du. taptoe, from tap "faucet of a cask" (see tap (2)) + toe "shut." So called because police used to visit taverns in
the evening to shut off the taps of casks. Transf. sense of "drumbeat" is recorded from 1755. Hence, Devil's tattoo "action of idly drumming fingers in irritation or impatience" (1803).

"mark the skin with pigment," 1769 (noun and ver, both first attested in writing of Capt. Cook), from a Polynesian noun (e.g. Tahitian and Samoan tatau, Marquesan tatu "puncture, mark made on skin").
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
Cite This Source
American Heritage
Medical Dictionary

tattoo tat·too (tā-tōō')
n. pl. tat·toos
A permanent mark or design made on the skin by a process of pricking and ingraining an indelible pigment or by raising scars. v. tat·tooed, tat·too·ing, tat·toos

  1. To mark the skin with a tattoo.

  2. To form a tattoo on the skin.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Cite This Source
Example sentences
From earrings and necklaces to lipstick and tattoos, humans across cultures
  decorate themselves.
Maybe it has something to do with pierced visible body parts, tattoos on the
  neck and other visible body parts.
Top surfers have tattoos, nicknames that ape those of hip-hop stars and
  probably use lots of emoticons when emailing.
Gangsters are closely monitored with an electronic bracelet, and their
  tell-tale tattoos are photographed upon release.
Copyright © 2014, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature