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taboo

[tuh-boo, ta-] /təˈbu, tæ-/
adjective
1.
proscribed by society as improper or unacceptable:
Taboo language is usually bleeped on TV.
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.
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.
5.
  1. the system, practice, or act whereby things are set apart as sacred, forbidden for general use, or placed under a prohibition or interdiction.
  2. 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.
Antonyms: allow, permit, sanction.
8.
to ostracize (a person, group, etc.):
While he is tabooed, no one may speak to him.
Also, tabu.
Origin
1770-1780
1770-80; < Tongan tapu or Fijian tabu ‘forbidden, prohibited’
Synonym Study
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.
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for taboos
  • It is probably the strongest taboo in the whole gamut of taboos that comprise political correctness.
  • Societal taboos against their participation in sports-especially ones that require physical struggle-limited their opportunities.
  • Adding to the gorillas' plight is the shedding of taboos against eating gorilla meat, the report says.
  • Tattooing was done in stages over many years and was governed by various taboos.
  • Find out if there are any taboos about photography, and if so, what they are.
  • Linguistic taboos are certainly real in the sense of being a quirk of our psychology.
  • As usual, when you accidentally touch on other people's cultural taboos it raises heated emotions.
  • He rewards his tabloid editors when they break industry taboos and print what was previously deemed unprintable.
  • These two taboos only receive an occasional voice when someone dares to suggest teaching these topics in the school system.
  • Some try to honor that symbol by following rituals and avoiding taboos.
British Dictionary definitions for taboos

taboo

/təˈbuː/
adjective
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
noun (pl) -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
verb
5.
(transitive) to place under a taboo
Word Origin
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
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Word Origin and History for taboos

taboo

adj.

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
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taboos in Medicine

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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taboos in Culture

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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8
9
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