The word ‘tessera’ in latin means a small stone cube. They were used to make up ‘tessellate’— the mosaic pictures forming floors and tilings in Roman buildings

Nowadays, the term “tessellation” has expanded to have at least four meanings.

Now it has the original meaning, of big pictures made from small square tiles, but it also means tile-sized uniformly shaped pictures or big pictures made from tiles that aren’t just square-shaped.

Tessellation can also mean simply filling a large surface, without gaps or overlaps, using non-square tiles. In nature, we see this kind of tessellation in cracked mud, turtle shells, and other places. In man-made areas, we see it in architecture, for example… from brick walls and bathroom floors to decorated magnificent, beautiful buildings like the Alhambra in Spain. Tiled floors, and the honeycomb in bee hives are both tessellations we see quite often

In the world of three-dimensional CGI (Computer Graphic Imagery), tessellation refers to the “wire frame” shape created from small interconnected nonidentical polygon shapes– not just squares. These give us the shape—but not the coloring—of Jurassic Park’s dinosaurs, video game monsters and heroes, and other invented animals and objects.

Tessellations here mean symmetric designs which can fit together in repetitive patterns like simple jigsaw puzzles. These fill a surface, usually a 2D plane, without gaps or overlaps. Most people call these “M. C. Escher-style tessellations”. In these tessellations, the tiles aren’t square. The individual tiles are the shape of animals, people, and things. When we say “this is an animal tessellation”, we don’t see lots of little tiles making a big picture of an animal. Instead, each little tile is a little picture of an animal. You can see examples in the many art galleries at Tessellations.org.