taboo

adjective
ta·​boo | \ tə-ˈbü How to pronounce taboo (audio) , ta-\
variants: or less commonly tabu

Definition of taboo

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1a : banned on grounds of morality or taste the subject is taboo
b : banned as constituting a risk the area beyond is taboo, still alive with explosives— Robert Leckie
2 : forbidden to profane use or contact because of what are held to be dangerous supernatural powers

taboo

noun
variants: or less commonly tabu
plural taboos also tabus

Definition of taboo (Entry 2 of 3)

1a : a prohibition imposed by social custom or as a protective measure … they may have developed a taboo against eating fish.— Jared Diamond
b : something that is not acceptable to say, mention, or do : something that is taboo … the tacticians in a conservative Republican Administration now deem membership in the club a taboo. — Peter J. Boyer
2 : a prohibition against touching, saying, or doing something for fear of immediate harm from a supernatural force
3 : belief in taboos

taboo

verb
variants: or less commonly tabu
tabooed also tabued; tabooing also tabuing; taboos also tabus

Definition of taboo (Entry 3 of 3)

transitive verb

1 : to set apart as taboo especially by marking with a ritualistic symbol
2 : to avoid or ban as taboo

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Examples of taboo in a Sentence

Adjective

Sex is a taboo subject for many people. In this company, dating a coworker is considered taboo.

Noun

religious taboos against drinking alcohol Marrying a close relative is a taboo in many cultures.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Powell was sacked the next day, leaving politics for good and marking such words as eternally taboo in British politics. Josephine Livingstone, The New Republic, "The Death of Taboo," 27 June 2019 By voicing these feelings, which can be taboo to speak out loud, men supposedly developed compassion for women, and vice versa. Vanessa Grigoriadis, New York Times, "The ‘Sex Cult’ That Preached Empowerment," 30 May 2018 With more states legalizing gambling and more teams incorporating it into the game, gambling will be less taboo in professional sports. Jenna Ortiz, azcentral, "How sports betting is finding its way into arenas," 12 June 2019 Not to do a full left turn here, but Jodie, Villanelle does something that's often taboo in TV, which is killing a child. Yvonne Villarreal, latimes.com, "Bob Odenkirk, Jodie Comer and Billy Porter discuss the ups and downs of peak TV," 3 June 2019 In other industries and in Silicon Valley in particular, there’s been a push for salary transparency—but Bolles, Salvo, and Cowan all say that for freelancers, talking money is still largely taboo. Emma Goldberg, Glamour, "A Penny for Her Thoughts? Women in the Gig Economy Struggle to Get Paid," 16 Apr. 2019 The internet, social media specifically, has started all kinds of conversations that are still taboo in day to day life, but need to see the light of day — mental health is the perfect example. Brittney Mcnamara, Teen Vogue, "The Twitter Hashtag #MyMentalStatein5Words Is Starting an Important Mental Health Conversation," 10 Dec. 2018 Perhaps another reason the c-word is so taboo is that it simply isn't used as often, at least in public. The Washington Post, NOLA.com, "Let's talk about the c-word -- and why it's so taboo," 2 June 2018 Even as women have started to increasingly outearn their partners, the thought of a woman paying for her own ring still feels wildly taboo. Bethany Rutter, Glamour, "I Bought My Own Engagement Ring and I Couldn’t Be Happier," 8 Jan. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The taboo against book-burning was highlighted when, not long after, the United States experienced its own period of fear about books that didn’t fit in. Lily Rothman, Time, "The Real History Behind Book Burning and Fahrenheit 451," 18 May 2018 That’s a hard lesson in countries with cultural taboos against business failures. The Christian Science Monitor, "The race to be a start-up nation," 15 Mar. 2018 Cross is hoping to break down the taboo surrounding anal cancer. CBS News, "Why "Desperate Housewives" star Marcia Cross is so eager to talk about anal cancer," 5 June 2019 Amira Al-Sharif is a Yemeni photographer who focuses on women's issues and social taboos, particularly in Yemen. Erin Blakemore, National Geographic, "In Yemen’s war, a photographer finds points of light in the darkness," 21 May 2019 In some parts of Asia, for example, tampons are still a cultural taboo and can be difficult to find. Krystin Arneson, Glamour, "Why Does It Seem Like I Always Get My Period While Traveling?," 8 Apr. 2019 And more fundamentally, there's the issue of breaking the informal taboo on militarizing space. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "'Star Wars' Lite? We Explain Trump's Missile Defense Strategy," 17 Jan. 2019 The real alternative to allowing more immigration for an aging society like Japan’s is stagnation and decline, and Mr. Abe deserves credit for breaking the national immigration taboo to address the labor challenge. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Japan’s Immigration Harbinger," 5 Dec. 2018 Although general openness about miscarriage has increased over the past few years, Markin, who specializes in counseling related to infertility and pregnancy loss, believes there remains a certain taboo in talking about it. Amy Keller Laird, SELF, "Not Every Miscarriage Results in Grief, and That’s OK," 15 Oct. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'taboo.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of taboo

Adjective

1777, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Noun

1777, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Verb

1777, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for taboo

Adjective

Tongan tabu

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Dictionary Entries near taboo

tabloid

tabo-

tabonuco

taboo

tabor

Tabora

taborer

Statistics for taboo

Last Updated

6 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for taboo

The first known use of taboo was in 1777

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More Definitions for taboo

taboo

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of taboo

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: not acceptable to talk about or do

taboo

noun

English Language Learners Definition of taboo (Entry 2 of 2)

: a rule against doing or saying something in a particular culture or religion
: something that is not acceptable to talk about or do : something that is taboo

taboo

noun
ta·​boo
variants: also tabu \ tə-​ˈbü, ta-​ How to pronounce tabu (audio) \
plural taboos also tabus

Medical Definition of taboo

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a prohibition in some cultures against touching, saying, or doing something for fear of immediate harm from a mysterious superhuman force
2 : a prohibition imposed by social custom or as a protective measure the view that incest, not cannibalism, was the world's first taboo— Phyllis Grosskurth
3 : belief in taboos

Other Words from taboo

taboo also tabu adjective
variants: also tabu

Medical Definition of taboo (Entry 2 of 2)

: to avoid or ban as taboo

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More from Merriam-Webster on taboo

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with taboo

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for taboo

Spanish Central: Translation of taboo

Nglish: Translation of taboo for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of taboo for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about taboo

Comments on taboo

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