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90s Slang You Should Know


[tuh-boo, ta-] /təˈbu, tæ-/
adjective, noun, verb (used with object)


or tabu

[tuh-boo, ta-] /təˈbu, tæ-/
proscribed by society as improper or unacceptable:
Taboo language is usually bleeped on TV.
prohibited or excluded from use or practice:
In art school, painting from photographs was taboo.
(among the Polynesians and other peoples of the South Pacific) separated or set apart as sacred; forbidden for general use; placed under a prohibition or ban.
noun, plural taboos.
a prohibition or interdiction of anything; exclusion from use or practice:
One of the strongest taboos in all modern societies is against incest.
  1. the system, practice, or act whereby things are set apart as sacred, forbidden for general use, or placed under a prohibition or interdiction.
  2. the condition of being so set apart, forbidden, or interdicted.
exclusion from social relations; ostracism.
verb (used with object), tabooed, tabooing.
to put under a taboo; prohibit or forbid.
Antonyms: allow, permit, sanction.
to ostracize (a person, group, etc.):
While he is tabooed, no one may speak to him.
Origin of taboo
1770-80; < Tongan tapu or Fijian tabu ‘forbidden, prohibited’
Synonym Study
7. Forbid, inhibit, prohibit, taboo indicate a command to refrain from some action. Forbid, a common and familiar word, usually denotes a direct or personal command of this sort: I forbid you to go. It was useless to forbid children to play in the park. Inhibit implies a checking or hindering of impulses by the mind, sometimes involuntarily: to inhibit one's desires; His responsiveness was inhibited by extreme shyness. Prohibit, a formal or legal word, means usually to forbid by official edict, enactment, or the like: to prohibit the sale of liquor. Taboo, primarily associated with primitive superstition, means to prohibit by common disapproval and by social custom: to taboo a subject in polite conversation. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for tabu
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Olopana asked his kahunas if it were right for the parents to stay with the chief during a tabu, under the law of their land.

    Legends of Gods and Ghosts (Hawaiian Mythology) W. D. (William Drake) Westervelt
  • Una has stolen that which is tabu to her and I will punish her.

    B. C. 30,000 Sterner St. Paul Meek
  • He breaks the tabu; he eats the forbidden apple; he sins against the tribe, and is cast out.

    Pagan & Christian Creeds Edward Carpenter
  • There is nothing new or unnatural in this repression, this tabu on expectoration.

    Preventable Diseases Woods Hutchinson
  • It will thus be seen that the concubitant and the tabu alternate generation after generation.

    The Fijians Basil Thomson
  • The tabu was always most scrupulously regarded, after this, whenever employed.

    The Teacher Jacob Abbott
  • In this case no tabu is specified beyond the fact that both doctor and patient must be fasting.

  • Paragot accepted meekly my report of Joanna's tabu of the Black Boar.

    The Belovd Vagabond William J. Locke
  • In 1840 a tabu shark was eaten at Navukeilangi in the island of Ngau, and all who had eaten of it died.

    The Fijians Basil Thomson
British Dictionary definitions for tabu


forbidden or disapproved of; placed under a social prohibition or ban: taboo words
(in Polynesia and other islands of the South Pacific) marked off as simultaneously sacred and forbidden
noun (pl) -boos, -bus
any prohibition resulting from social or other conventions
ritual restriction or prohibition, esp of something that is considered holy or unclean
(transitive) to place under a taboo
Word Origin
C18: from Tongan tapu
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for tabu



1777 (in Cook's "A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean"), "consecrated, inviolable, forbidden, unclean or cursed," explained in some English sources as being from Tongan (Polynesian language of the island of Tonga) ta-bu "sacred," from ta "mark" + bu "especially." But this may be folk etymology, as linguists in the Pacific have reconstructed an irreducable Proto-Polynesian *tapu, from Proto-Oceanic *tabu "sacred, forbidden" (cf. Hawaiian kapu "taboo, prohibition, sacred, holy, consecrated;" Tahitian tapu "restriction, sacred;" Maori tapu "be under ritual restriction, prohibited"). The noun and verb are English innovations first recorded in Cook's book.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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tabu in Medicine

taboo ta·boo or ta·bu (tə-bōō', tā-)
n. pl. ta·boos or ta·bus
A ban or an inhibition resulting from social custom or emotional aversion. adj.
Excluded or forbidden from use, approach, or mention.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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tabu in Culture

taboo definition

A descriptive term for words, objects, actions, or people that are forbidden by a group or culture. The expression comes from the religion of islanders of the South Pacific.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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