About the Word Tattoo
From Tahiti comes the word: Tattoo!
The explorer Captain Cook came to Tahiti in the 1700-hundreds, and heard the
natives call it "ta-tau". He brought the word to Europe.
He did make some mistakes though, when he put it down to English phonetics. For
a long time it has been thought that the word related to the sound of the
sticks that beats the colour into the skin. But new knowledge of the Tahitian
language (Thanks to Michel
Yieng Kow for the information.) tells us that it shall be spelled
The double ta-ta does not relate to the sound, but to an act that is done
with your hand. U means colour.
A few examples: Ta-tara = to pull a thorn out, when you have been stung.
Ta-iri = to beat with your hand.
Ta-hiri = to use a fan made of laced palm leaves.
Ta-pu = to place something in your hand and make an offering (pu) to the gods,
whereby it becomes holy - this has given the word Taboo!
Ta-hiri = to apply oil.
The repetitive ta-ta tells that you with your hands beat several (two)
times, to get the colour u into the skin.
Other sources tells us that it may be more complicated. In Samoan the word
tatau means "must, necessary, appropriate" - because it is necessary
to get a tattoo in life.
In Samoan it may also mean Anchor. Maybe because it is necessary for a human
being to be anchored to one's body. An anchor is the part of a pe'a called that
is above the hips.
It is also called tatau on Tonga, and there it means a picture.
(Thanks to Ann Lindvall)
|Japanese: Irezumi / Horimono
|New Zealand (Maori): Moko
||Polynesia in general: Mana
it is normally called Irezumi today (when they do not simply call it tattoo).
The word consists of two parts: iru comes from the verb "To put in, bring
in, stow in, admit, insert, etc.", and sumi means ink. Thus literally
The word Horimono comes from the verb horu that means " To engrave,
puncture, incise, etc.", and the word mono that means "object or
In Icelandic they are reluctant to incorporate foreign words, and will
much rather say things in a new way using "normal" words. Húðflúr comes
from the two words Húð, meaning skin and flúr, meaning decoration.
it is called Kakiorneq = to tattoo, tattooing
kakiornerit = tattooing (many stitches to a picture)
kakiortinneq = To be tattooed
kakiorpaa = stitching him, tattooing him
(Thanks to Buuti Pedersen)
As you may note, the word stems from the same as stitching or sewing. And
that fits well with the fact that the old inuit technique was that they were
"sewing" the tattoos on. A thread was dipped in colour (soot from the
whale-oil lamps), and by help from a needle, dragging it through the skin. That
way a trace was made. By repeating the process, they could draw a line.
photo of a Greenlandic mummy, it is easy to see the "stitches" from
the tattoo process. You can see more about Inuit tattooing under the
If anyone out there knows
the word for tattooing in any other language
- I would be grateful if you sent us an e-mail.