Definition of taboo in English:


Line breaks: taboo
Pronunciation: /təˈbuː

noun (plural taboos)

  • 1A social or religious custom prohibiting or restricting a particular practice or forbidding association with a particular person, place, or thing: many taboos have developed around physical exposure the use of violence must remain a taboo in our society [mass noun]: Freud applies his notion of taboo in three ways
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    • Accurate statistics are hard to come by, especially in a country where social taboos and threats keep many victims silent.
    • Our country has substantial number of disabled people who have excelled in various walks of life, overcoming poverty and social taboos.
    • The cabaret performers and their audiences shared a more or less hidden opposition to social taboos and censorship.
  • 1.1A practice that is prohibited or restricted by social or religious custom: speaking about sex is a taboo in his country
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    • We are now violating an even deeper family taboo.
    • Knowing incest is an "unclean" act heightens the awareness of the taboo she is violating.
    • The Communist Party decided to dramatise its rather unique willingness to challenge taboos.


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verb (taboos, tabooing, tabooed)

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  • Place under a taboo: traditional societies taboo female handling of food during this period
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    • That these kinds of magazines have been tabooed in our society; forced universally under mattresses, in private drawers, and into unmarked brown boxes.
    • Some magic users, magicians, and quite strong ones at that, decided that magic shouldn't be tabooed and decided to rebel against the society that had made them outsiders for so long.
    • As the child accepts that bodily products such as excrement and vomit are tabooed as repugnant and dirty, simultaneously it begins to form concepts of cleanliness and propriety that work toward defining the emergent sense of selfhood.


late 18th century: from Tongan tabu 'set apart, forbidden'; introduced into English by Captain Cook.

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