- the system, practice, or act whereby things are set apart as sacred, forbidden for general use, or placed under a prohibition or interdiction.
- the condition of being so set apart, forbidden, or interdicted.
OTHER WORDS FOR taboo
OPPOSITES FOR taboo
Origin of taboo
synonym study for taboo
historical usage of taboo
Tabu is also the variant in some other Polynesian languages of Melanesia and Micronesia. In Maori (the Polynesian language spoken on New Zealand), the form is tapu, which is also the reconstructed Proto-Polynesian form. Hawaiian has the variant kapu (Hawaiian changes Polynesian initial t- to k- ).
Use of tabu, taboo as a noun and verb is only in English: all the Polynesian forms are adjectives.
Words nearby taboo
MORE ABOUT TABOO
What is taboo?
Taboo describes an activity or behavior that is considered completely unacceptable or forbidden. A taboo is also the prohibition from engaging in such an activity or behavior through social rules, laws, religious doctrine, and even by your own conscience.
Something considered taboo is considered unacceptable by the vast majority of a person’s social group. Often, there is a serious punishment for performing the taboo activity.
Many activities that we refer to as crimes are examples of taboos, such as theft, murder, and kidnapping. These activities are considered unacceptable by the government or the law and have strict punishments.
Sacred religious writings also outline specific activities as taboo and shouldn’t be done by the religion’s followers. For example, Jewish law considers pork to be taboo, so many Jewish people do not eat pork.
Sometimes, taboos are so unacceptable to a society that laws are not needed to forbid people from doing them. Even thinking about them or reading about them can make you feel disgusted, which gives you an idea of how powerful the label of taboo can be.
Why is taboo important?
The first records of taboo come from around 1770. It comes from the Tongan word tabu, which means “forbidden” or “prohibited.”
What is and isn’t considered taboo often depends on the culture or beliefs of a particular society. For example, cannibalism is widely considered taboo, but it has actually been practiced by a number of societies throughout history, such as the ancient Aztecs.
Interestingly, a taboo can be so thoroughly ingrained into a person’s mind that they will not perform the activity even if it is unlikely they will be punished for it. For example, a person dying of hunger may choose not to resort to cannibalism even if it means they will die because they consider the act so horrible that they cannot live with the thought of having done it.
Did you know ... ?
Captain James Cook wrote both taboo and tabu for this term in his 1777 journal. He learned about the word on a visit to the island of Tongatapu. Other Pacific islands have similar words for the same idea, such as the Maori tapu and the Hawaiin kapu.
What are real-life examples of taboo?
Having a mental health problem, such as depression, is still considered taboo in some societies, even though a person doesn’t choose to be depressed.
Mental ill health costs the economy 100 billion & is still considered taboo? Time we start taking emotional education seriously no?
— Kate Nash (@katenash) January 16, 2015
The word taboo is often used to refer to behavior that a person feels is unacceptable in their society.
Hugging someone in a business setting is taboo in Japan.
— Christina Wilkie (@christinawilkie) February 10, 2017
Do you think talking about sex is a taboo in India and repressing it causes more sexual crimes?
How do you suggest it should be?
— Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri (@vivekagnihotri) July 23, 2020
What other words are related to taboo?
Which of the following is NOT a synonym of taboo?
How to use taboo in a sentence
You’ll continue to see us create products and experiences for our community that innovate in taboo categories.The Gen Z founders of a boutique skincare brand tackling chronic skin conditions and stigma|Rachel King|September 13, 2020|Fortune
Just as important, it opened up a conversation in the households of countless straight Americans about a subject that would previously have been shrouded behind an unbreakable taboo.For Norman Lear, being an ally is a calling|John Paul King|September 11, 2020|Washington Blade
However, menstruation is usually a taboo and embarrassing topic to discuss with friends, coaches, and teammates—so most women are left with few strategies to mitigate the effects of their cycle on their workouts except to grin and bear it.Everything You Need to Know About Period Tracking|Christine Yu|September 6, 2020|Outside Online
We could follow their lead and loosen up, liberating ourselves from the opinion that our taboos are anything other than social constraints.Gender Is What You Make of It - Issue 88: Love & Sex|Charles King|August 5, 2020|Nautilus
Many people in rural parts of india consider menstruation a dirty process, some think of it as a disease, all of this happens due to lack of awareness and age old taboos.Menstruation Comes With Innumerable Taboos In India|LGBTQ-Editor|May 29, 2020|No Straight News
As Armstrong writes, “It was not a ‘great objective something,’ but had imprecise connotations of obligation and taboo.”Karen Armstrong’s New Rule: Religion Isn’t Responsible for Violence|Patricia Pearson|October 29, 2014|DAILY BEAST
Our culture is becoming more open-minded about previously taboo subjects.Porn Keeps Up with the Kardashians: Belle Knox on the Mainstreaming of Adult Stars|Aurora Snow|September 27, 2014|DAILY BEAST
Millions of us are gay, and yet what gay people do in bed remains taboo—almost never discussed—so what is the truth about gay sex?'Sex Box,' a Reality TV Show Where Couples Have Sex in a Box and Discuss It, Is Coming to America|Marlow Stern|August 21, 2014|DAILY BEAST
Everything was on the table, the promos said; no subjects were taboo.Hillary Clinton’s Network Massage|Tom Shales|June 10, 2014|DAILY BEAST
Lingerie—once so scandalous, erotic—was worse than taboo, it was passé.What Lies Beneath: How Lingerie Got Sexy|Raquel Laneri|June 5, 2014|DAILY BEAST
Taboo survivals act dysgenically within the family under present conditions.Taboo and Genetics|Melvin Moses Knight, Iva Lowther Peters, and Phyllis Mary Blanchard
There were no home-books to be signed by governesses: there was no longer any taboo upon the revelation of Christian names.Sinister Street, vol. 1|Compton Mackenzie
The savage was afraid to utter the real name of his god, it was taboo.
The cow is taboo to the Hindus, the pig is taboo to the Mohammedans and to the Jews.
Breach of taboo rendered not only the individual lawbreaker but the whole tribe, however innocent, liable to punishment.The New Stone Age in Northern Europe|John M. Tyler
British Dictionary definitions for taboo
Word Origin for taboo
Cultural definitions for taboo
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.