Definition of taboo in English:

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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
More example sentences
  • 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
More example sentences
  • 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.


1Prohibited or restricted by social custom: sex was a taboo subject
More example sentences
  • As a writer, he comes across as someone who feels that by trumpeting loudly about a taboo subject he is breaking down social barriers.
  • Al-Jazeera gives air-time to their Arab leaders' opponents and to ordinary viewers and discusses taboo political and social topics.
  • The fact that the subject is taboo also means that a man who is traumatized by the experience may be retraumatized again and again, with each child born to him.
forbidden, prohibited, banned, proscribed, vetoed, ruled out, interdicted, outlawed, not permitted, not allowed, illegal, illicit, unlawful, impermissible, not acceptable, restricted, frowned on, beyond the pale, off limits, out of bounds;
unmentionable, unspeakable, unutterable, ineffable, censored;
rude, impolite, indecorous, dirty;
German verboten;
Islam  haram;
New Zealand  tapu
informal no go
rare non licet
1.1Designated as sacred and prohibited: the burial ground was seen as a taboo place
More example sentences
  • In the Solomon Islands, shrines are always taboo places.
  • Christianity was another force that was gradually eliminating dangers from spirits based at taboo sites.
  • Totems of specific clans, healers, or royal dynasties are taboo to certain members of some ethnic groups.

verb (taboos, tabooing, tabooed)

[with object]
Place under a taboo: traditional societies taboo female handling of food during this period
More example sentences
  • 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.

  • There are not many words in English which come from the Polynesian language of Tongan, but taboo is one of them. It was introduced into English by the explorer Captain James Cook in 1777 in the narrative of his voyages. He wrote: ‘Not one of them would sit down, or eat a bit of any thing…they were all taboo.’ He went on to explain that the word was generally used to mean ‘forbidden’. See also tattoo

Words that rhyme with taboo

accrue, adieu, ado, anew, Anjou, aperçu, askew, ballyhoo, bamboo, bedew, bestrew, billet-doux, blew, blue, boo, boohoo, brew, buckaroo, canoe, chew, clew, clou, clue, cock-a-doodle-doo, cockatoo, construe, coo, Corfu, coup, crew, Crewe, cru, cue, déjà vu, derring-do, dew, didgeridoo, do, drew, due, endue, ensue, eschew, feu, few, flew, flu, flue, foreknew, glue, gnu, goo, grew, halloo, hereto, hew, Hindu, hitherto, how-do-you-do, hue, Hugh, hullabaloo, imbrue, imbue, jackaroo, Jew, kangaroo, Karroo, Kathmandu, kazoo, Kiangsu, knew, Kru, K2, kung fu, Lahu, Lanzhou, Lao-tzu, lasso, lieu, loo, Lou, Manchu, mangetout, mew, misconstrue, miscue, moo, moue, mu, nardoo, new, non-U, nu, ooh, outdo, outflew, outgrew, peekaboo, Peru, pew, plew, Poitou, pooh, pooh-pooh, potoroo, pursue, queue, revue, roo, roux, rue, Selous, set-to, shampoo, shih-tzu, shoe, shoo, shrew, Sioux, skean dhu, skew, skidoo, slew, smew, snafu, sou, spew, sprue, stew, strew, subdue, sue, switcheroo, tattoo, thereto, thew, threw, thro, through, thru, tickety-boo, Timbuktu, tiramisu, to, to-do, too, toodle-oo, true, true-blue, tu-whit tu-whoo, two, vendue, view, vindaloo, virtu, wahoo, wallaroo, Waterloo, well-to-do, whereto, whew, who, withdrew, woo, Wu, yew, you, zoo

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: taboo

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