Word Origin & History
1777 (in Cook's "A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean"), "consecrated, inviolable, forbidden, unclean or cursed," explained in some Englishsources 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 Eng. innovations first recorded in Cook's book.