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See also: Tattoo



  • IPA(key): /tæˈtu(ː)/, [tʰæˈtʰu̟(ː)]

Etymology 1[edit]

A tattoo (image made in skin)

From Samoan tatau (to tap).


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tattoo (plural tattoos)

  1. An image made in the skin with ink and a needle.
  2. A method of decorating the skin by inserting colored substances under the surface. The skin is punctured with a sharp instrument, which now is usually a solenoid-driven needle, that carries the inks to lower layers of the skin.
  3. (military) A drum performance or display
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tattoo (third-person singular simple present tattoos, present participle tattooing, simple past and past participle tattooed)

  1. To apply a tattoo to (someone or something).
  2. To tap rhythmically on, to drum.
    • 1848, William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair, Chapter 22:
      He had looked at the clock many scores of times; and at the street, where the rain was pattering down, and the people as they clinked by in pattens, left long reflections on the shining stone: he tattooed at the table: he bit his nails most completely []
  3. (baseball) To hit the ball hard, as if to figuratively leave a tattoo on the ball.
    Jones tattoos one into the gap in left; that will clear the bases.

Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

From earlier tap-to, borrowed from Dutch taptoe, from tap (tap; faucet on a cask) + toe (to; shut). More at tap, to.


tattoo (plural tattoos)

  1. (nautical) A signal played five minutes before taps (lights out).
  2. A signal by drum or bugle ordering soldiers to return to their quarters.
  3. A military display or pageant.

Etymology 3[edit]

From Hindi टट्टू (ṭaṭṭū).


tattoo (plural tattoos)

  1. A breed of pony from India; a pony of that breed.