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 taboo on Wikipedia

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Borrowed from Tongan tapu (prohibited, sacred), from Proto-Polynesian *tapu, from Proto-Oceanic *tabu, from Proto-Eastern Malayo-Polynesian *tambu. Doublet of kapu. First attested in c. 1777.

The p in the Tongan source was misheard as b.


  • IPA(key): /təˈbuː/, /tæˈbuː/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -uː


taboo (countable and uncountable, plural taboos)

  1. An inhibition or ban that results from social custom or emotional aversion.
    • 1922, James Frazer, The Golden Bough:
      So among the Alfoors of the island of Buru it is taboo to mention the names of parents and parents-in-law, or even to speak of common objects by words which resemble these names in sound.
    • 1974, Lawrence Durrell, Monsieur, Faber & Faber, published 1992, page 213:
      The sharp differentiation of the sexes in our culture was shaped most probably by monogamy and monosexuality and their tabus.
    • 1981, William Irwin Thompson, The Time Falling Bodies Take to Light:Mythology, Sexuality and the Origins of Culture, page 12:
      For a structuralist like Edmund Leach, the structure is the meaning. Genesis, for example, is about incest taboos; all the rest is noise and mystification.
  2. (in Polynesia) Something which may not be used, approached or mentioned because it is sacred.


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taboo (comparative more taboo, superlative most taboo)

  1. Excluded or forbidden from use, approach or mention.
    Incest is a taboo subject in most soap operas.
  2. Culturally forbidden.



taboo (third-person singular simple present taboos, present participle tabooing, simple past and past participle tabooed)

  1. To mark as taboo.
  2. To ban.
  3. To avoid.