The first documentation of the "French braid" was found in an 1871 issue Arthur's Home Magazine. It was mentioned in a an article describing it as a new style--
'... do up your hair in that new French braid..."
The term undoubtedly originated somewhat earlier, but it is unknown how it became associated with France. In its "native" country, the French braid is called "tresse Africaine ("African braid") or "tresse Indienne" ("Indian braid"). The term "fishtail braid" or "Grecian braid," which divides the hair into two sections instead of three, has been in existence since the 19th century. A "Dutch braid" is a variation of the French braid, except that the three sections are crossed under, instead of over, each other.