or ta·bu

[ tuh-boo, ta- ]
/ təˈbu, tæ- /


noun, plural ta·boos.

verb (used with object), ta·booed, ta·boo·ing.

to put under a taboo; prohibit or forbid.
to ostracize (a person, group, etc.): While he is tabooed, no one may speak to him.



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Origin of taboo

First recorded in 1770–80; from Tongan tabu “forbidden, prohibited”; the spellings tabu and taboo both appear in Captain James Cook's journal in 1777

synonym study for taboo

See forbid.

historical usage of taboo

Captain James Cook, the English navigator, explorer, and cartographer, used and defined tabu, taboo (he used both spellings) as “a word of a very comprehensive meaning but [which] in general signifies forbidden,” in an entry in his journal in 1777 during his third voyage when he visited the island of Tongatapu, the main island of the Kingdom of Tonga and the location of its capital.
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. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

Example sentences from the Web for taboo

British Dictionary definitions for taboo



/ (təˈbuː) /


forbidden or disapproved of; placed under a social prohibition or bantaboo words
(in Polynesia and other islands of the South Pacific) marked off as simultaneously sacred and forbidden

noun plural -boos or -bus

any prohibition resulting from social or other conventions
ritual restriction or prohibition, esp of something that is considered holy or unclean


(tr) to place under a taboo

Word Origin for taboo

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

Medical definitions for taboo


n. pl. ta•boos

A ban or an inhibition resulting from social custom or emotional aversion.


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.

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.

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