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Borrowing from Tongan tapu (prohibited, sacred), from Proto-Polynesian *tapu, from Proto-Oceanic *tabu, from Proto-Eastern Malayo-Polynesian *tambu. Doublet of kapu. The word entered English around 1777.


  • IPA(key): /təˈbuː/, /tæˈbuː/
  • (file)


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 1992, p. 213:
      The sharp differentiation of the sexes in our culture was shaped most probably by monogamy and monosexuality and their tabus.
  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.