adjective, noun, verb (used with object)
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 ta·boos.
a prohibition or interdiction of anything; exclusion from use or practice: One of the strongest taboos in all modern societies is against incest.
(among the Polynesians and other peoples of the South Pacific)
- 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.
exclusion from social relations; ostracism.
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.
Origin of taboo
1770–80; < Tongan tapu or Fijian tabu ‘forbidden, prohibited’
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.
Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019
Examples from the Web for tabu
Contemporary Examples of tabu
Historical Examples of tabu
The Tabu was always most scrupulously regarded, after this, whenever employed.
Noa (n-a)--ceremonially free; unrestrained by tabu (p. 126).
You know as well as I do that a tabu like this is a serious business.
Una has stolen that which is tabu to her and I will punish her.
There is nothing new or unnatural in this repression, this tabu on expectoration.
British Dictionary definitions for tabu
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
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
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.
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.