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 ta·boos.

  1. a prohibition or interdiction of anything; exclusion from use or practice: One of the strongest taboos in all modern societies is against incest.
  2. (among the Polynesians and other peoples of the South Pacific)
    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.
  3. exclusion from social relations; ostracism.

verb (used with object), ta·booed, ta·boo·ing.

  1. to put under a taboo; prohibit or forbid.
  2. to ostracize (a person, group, etc.): While he is tabooed, no one may speak to him.


  1. forbidden or disapproved of; placed under a social prohibition or bantaboo words
  2. (in Polynesia and other islands of the South Pacific) marked off as simultaneously sacred and forbidden

noun plural -boos or -bus

  1. any prohibition resulting from social or other conventions
  2. ritual restriction or prohibition, esp of something that is considered holy or unclean


  1. (tr) to place under a 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. n. pl. ta•boos

  1. A ban or an inhibition resulting from social custom or emotional aversion.


  1. Excluded or forbidden from use, approach, or mention.

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.

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