The first written reference to the word, "tattoo" (or Samoan "Tatau") appears in the journal of Joseph Banks, the naturalist aboard Captain Cook's ship the HMS Endeavour: "I shall now mention the way they mark themselves indelibly, each of them is so marked by their humor or disposition".
The word "tattoo" was brought to Europe by the explorer James Cook, when he returned in 1771 from his first voyage to Tahiti and New Zealand. In his narrative of the voyage, he refers to an operation called "tattaw". Before this it had been described as scarring, painting, or staining.
Tattooing has been practiced for centuries in many cultures, particularly in Asia, and spread throughout the world.
The Ainu, an indigenous people of Japan, traditionally had facial tattoos. Today, one can find Atayal, Seediq, Truku, and Saisiyat of Taiwan, Berbers of Tamazgha (North Africa), Yoruba, Fulani and Hausa people of Nigeria, and Māori of New Zealand with facial tattoos.
Tattooing was widespread among Polynesians and among certain tribal groups in Africa, Borneo, Cambodia, Europe, Japan, the Mentawai Islands, MesoAmerica, New Zealand, North America and South America, the Philippines, and Taiwan.Indeed, the island of Great Britain takes its name from tattooing; Britons translates as "people of the designs", and Picts, the peoples who originally inhabited the northern part of Britain, literally means "the painted people".Despite some taboos surrounding tattooing, the practice continues to be popular in many parts of the world.