Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A ban or an inhibition resulting from social custom or emotional aversion.
  • n. A prohibition, especially in Polynesia and other South Pacific islands, excluding something from use, approach, or mention because of its sacred and inviolable nature.
  • n. An object, a word, or an act protected by such a prohibition.
  • adj. Excluded or forbidden from use, approach, or mention: a taboo subject.
  • transitive v. To exclude from use, approach, or mention; place under taboo.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. An inhibition or ban that results from social custom or emotional aversion.
  • n. Something which may not be used, approached or mentioned because it is sacred.
  • adj. Excluded or forbidden from use, approach or mention.
  • v. To mark as taboo.
  • v. To ban.
  • v. To avoid.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A total prohibition of intercourse with, use of, or approach to, a given person or thing under pain of death, -- an interdict of religious origin and authority, formerly common in the islands of Polynesia; interdiction.
  • transitive v. To put under taboo; to forbid, or to forbid the use of; to interdict approach to, or use of.
  • adj. Set apart or sacred by religious custom among certain races of Polynesia, New Zealand, etc., and forbidden to certain persons or uses; hence, prohibited under severe penalties; interdicted.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Among the Polynesians and other races of the South Pacific, separated or set apart either as forbidden or as sacred; placed under ban or prohibition; consecrated either to exclusion or avoidance or to special use, regard, or service; hence, in English use, forbidden; interdicted.
  • n. Among the Polynesians and other races of the South Pacific, a system, practice, or act whereby persons, things, places, actions, or words are or may be placed under a ban, curse, or prohibition, or set apart as sacred or privileged in some specific manner, usually with very severe penalties for infraction.
  • n. Hence A prohibitory or restraining injunction or demonstration; restraint or exclusion, as from social intercourse or from use, imposed by some controlling influence; ban; prohibition; ostracism: as, to put a person or a thing under taboo. See the verb.
  • To put under taboo; disallow, or forbid the use of; interdict approach to, or contact or intercourse with; hence, to ban, exclude, or ostracize by personal authority or social influence: as, to taboo the use of tobacco; a tabooed person or subject (one not to be mentioned or discussed).

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. declare as sacred and forbidden
  • adj. forbidden to profane use especially in South Pacific islands
  • n. a prejudice (especially in Polynesia and other South Pacific islands) that prohibits the use or mention of something because of its sacred nature
  • n. an inhibition or ban resulting from social custom or emotional aversion
  • adj. excluded from use or mention

Etymologies

Tongan tabu, under prohibition.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Tongan tapu ("prohibited"). The word entered English around 1777. Ultimately from Proto-Polynesian *tapu. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • By far, the most important victory for breaking the word taboo comes in Cohen v.

    Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Local News

  • In an article in the Daily Telegraph, he describes the public reaction to his remarks as "hysterical", and says that a breach in what he calls the taboo on discussing race is "punished by ostracism and worse … the witch finders already have their sights on me".

    David Starkey defends Newsnight comment

  • He says the Holocaust was being used to legitimise the suffering of other peoples and he wanted to break what he called a taboo on discussing it.

    Neturei Karta Hasidim Hangin’ With Ahmadinejad | Jewschool

  • In short, those negative precepts which we call taboo are just as vain and futile as those positive precepts which we call sorcery.

    The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion

  • Thai government distanced itself Wednesday from remarks in the Minister Kasit Piromya about a need for a more open discussion of what he called the taboo subject of the role of the monarchy in

    WN.com - Photown News

  • The word taboo enters European languages from Captain Cook’s writings about the Pacific island peoples.

    Bloodlust

  • Photograph: Graeme Robertson David Starkey has defended comments he made last week on BBC's Newsnight - when he appeared to blame the recent riots in English cities on a black "gangsta" culture - by claiming that "the subject of race has become unmentionable, by whites at any rate". the Daily Telegraph, he describes the public reaction to his remarks as "hysterical", and says that a breach in what he calls the taboo on discussing race is "punished by ostracism and worse … the witch finders already have their sights on me".

    The Guardian World News

  • And I understand why this taboo is indeed present in our society.

    The Volokh Conspiracy » 4. On a Bus in Kiev

  • I mean, they were not raised as relatives ... and they do not live as relatives ... so the social taboo is a loose one.

    Supernatural's Gay Incest Subtext

  • The effect on a writer's reputation of crossing a taboo is probably far stronger when its done in their nonfiction or their public comments and is an explicit statement of their personal views.

    MIND MELD: Taboo Topics in SF/F Literature

Comments

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  • forbidden from use

    May 21, 2009

  • It's taboo to eat pork in some religions.

    May 20, 2009