From Arabic az-zulay, "litle stone".
Spanish and then principally Portuguese tile produced from the 14th century onward.
At first the term denoted North African mosaics, but it became the accepted word for an entirely decorated tile about 5 to 6 inches (11-18 centimetres) square.
In the 15th and 16 th centuries, Portugal imported azulejo tiles from Spain, and their use was widespread in nreligious and private architecture, particularly on facades, such as that of Coimbra cathedral (1510).
About 1550, Flemish artists in Lisbon attempted the production of tiles, and the industry developed during the reigns of Philip II, III, and IV to become independent of Spain, ,which virtually ceased to manufacture them in the 18th century.
Portugal exports of tiles to the Azores, Madeira, and Brazil began in the 17th century; azulejos produced in Puebla, Mexico, later were to be the most outstanding in the New World.
Initially, one-colour versions of the tiles were used in Portugal in decorative chessboard patterns; polychrome designs depicting military or religious motifs and Rococo singeries were among many variations soon introduced. During the height of the azulejo, from 1689 to 1750, many exterior and interior walls were faced by complex continous picture tiles.