taboo

[tuh-boo, ta-]
adjective
1.
proscribed by society as improper or unacceptable: Taboo language is usually bleeped on TV. prohibited, banned, forbidden, proscribed. allowed, permitted, permissible; sanctioned.
2.
prohibited or excluded from use or practice: In art school, painting from photographs was taboo.
3.
(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. sacrosanct, inviolable.
noun, plural taboos.
4.
a prohibition or interdiction of anything; exclusion from use or practice: One of the strongest taboos in all modern societies is against incest. ban, proscription, embargo, interdiction; no-no.
5.
a.
the system, practice, or act whereby things are set apart as sacred, forbidden for general use, or placed under a prohibition or interdiction.
b.
the condition of being so set apart, forbidden, or interdicted.
6.
exclusion from social relations; ostracism.
verb (used with object), tabooed, tabooing.
7.
to put under a taboo; prohibit or forbid. prohibit, ban, forbid, proscribe. allow, permit, sanction.
8.
to ostracize (a person, group, etc.): While he is tabooed, no one may speak to him.
Also, tabu.


Origin:
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.
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Collins
World English Dictionary
taboo or tabu (təˈbuː)
 
adj
1.  forbidden or disapproved of; placed under a social prohibition or ban: taboo words
2.  (in Polynesia and other islands of the South Pacific) marked off as simultaneously sacred and forbidden
 
n , -boos, -bus
3.  any prohibition resulting from social or other conventions
4.  ritual restriction or prohibition, esp of something that is considered holy or unclean
 
vb
5.  (tr) to place under a taboo
 
[C18: from Tongan tapu]
 
tabu or tabu
 
adj
 
n
 
vb
 
[C18: from Tongan tapu]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Etymonline
Word Origin & History

taboo
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.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Medical Dictionary

taboo ta·boo or ta·bu (tə-bōō', tā-)
n. pl. ta·boos or ta·bus
A ban or an inhibition resulting from social custom or emotional aversion. adj.
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.
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American Heritage
Cultural Dictionary

taboo definition


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 American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Example sentences
None of the words and expressions which are taboo in good society will be found in books of proved literary standing.
For all the hand-wringing over evolution, it's not a taboo subject for academic study.
When certain food is no longer taboo, it eventually loses its power over you.
It gets you thinking about seemingly taboo subjects in a different light.
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