taboo

adjective
ta·boo | \tə-ˈbü, 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

Gomez is the latest in a wave of millennial It-girls on a mission to elevate the once-taboo hair accessory (hello Carrie Bradshaw) to the next level. Calin Van Paris, Vogue, "Selena Gomez Has the Perfect Summer Vacation Hair Accessory," 20 June 2018 Activists are launching campaigns at a record pace as the rise in passive investing pressures fund managers to find new ways to beat the market and letting the rabble-rousing investors into boardrooms becomes less taboo. Cara Lombardo, WSJ, "Activist Investors Turn Up Heat in Drive for Returns," 12 July 2018 In the past, looking overly matchy has been considered a bit taboo among fashion people, but recently the popularity of wearing a full look has skyrocketed. Lindsay Peoples, The Cut, "A Cute Date-Night Outfit That’s Actually Comfortable," 6 July 2018 Unlike many of these works, Hereditary takes seriously the messy, often taboo feelings about parenting that many moms experience. Katherine Fusco, The Atlantic, "Hereditary and the Monstrousness of Creative Moms," 11 July 2018 Even when that means saying something taboo or potentially embarrassing. Carly Mallenbaum, USA TODAY, "Shailene Woodley says she drank to cope with hunger, goes viral yet again," 1 July 2018 Dyslexia, my constant companion, occupies a taboo place in my personal narrative. Lisa Wood Shapiro, WIRED, "The End of Dyslexia," 18 June 2018 Sometimes taboo topics appear in a humorous, sarcastic or indirect way. Susanne Wengle, Washington Post, "Tomorrow Putin answers Russians’ questions on live TV. Here’s what his performance will tell us.," 6 June 2018 Such writings raise the question, why is the c-word so much more taboo than other foul and forbidden words? The Washington Post, NOLA.com, "Let's talk about the c-word -- and why it's so taboo," 2 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The Sydney Morning Herald reports Victoria’s diary revealed a woman madly in love with her husband, which was somewhat taboo for a 19th-century woman. Rachel E. Greenspan, Time, "Prince Louis' Christening Venue Has a Poignant Tie to Princess Diana. Here's What to Know About the Chapel Royal," 9 July 2018 As this kind of language is taboo on Russian television, the incident immediately was all over news outlets and social media. Vladimir Kozlov, The Hollywood Reporter, "Russian Talk Show Host Faces Punishment for Swearing About World Cup Loss," 27 June 2018 This album had a darker, edgier tone as Janet tackled topics that were taboo to discuss, especially coming from a young Black woman. Bianca Gracie, Billboard, "What She's Done for Us: The Essential Guide to Janet Jackson's Career," 17 May 2018 And a new poll from PRRI shows that an idea that was nearly taboo as late as the 1980s has become the majority position across all major ethnic and racial groups and among all but a handful of states. Carrie Dann, NBC News, "Poll: Support for same-sex marriage is now the majority position in 44 states," 1 May 2018 Journalists who violate the taboo of reporting on the private life of Russia’s first family are dealt with swiftly and summarily. Owen Matthews, Newsweek, "The Top Secret Family Life of Vladimir Putin," 19 Aug. 2014 Once viewed as taboo, having anything other than a Brazilian is finally losing its stigma. Deanna Pai, Glamour, "10 Celebrities Who Are All About Their Bush," 4 July 2018 If, for decades now, true crime served as the collective unconscious of so many women, all the taboo topics the culture as a whole represses, what happens when the culture is unable to repress them any longer? Megan Abbott, latimes.com, "Why do we — women in particular — love true crime books?," 14 June 2018 Or as bold a statement as speaking to classmates about menstruation, a taboo topic. Elizabeth Llorente | Fox News, Fox News, "Hasidic 'defectors' find challenges, isolation in pursuing a new life," 13 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Measuring arm circumference may involve removing clothing, which can be taboo in some cultures. Emily Matchar, Smithsonian, "Can AI Tell If a Child Is Malnourished?," 8 June 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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Learn More about taboo

Dictionary Entries near taboo

tabloid

tabo-

tabonuco

taboo

tabor

Tabora

taborer

Statistics for taboo

Last Updated

12 Oct 2018

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- \
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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Comments on taboo

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