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 With touch now taboo, other senses are being drafted in to compensate. Laurence Scott, Wired, "Covid-19 and the New Intimacy," 1 June 2020 Framed correctly, Juneteenth offers an opportunity for reflection and racial reckoning that is utterly taboo in American public discourse. C. Brandon Ogbunu, Wired, "Why Juneteenth Went Viral," 19 June 2020 Eating inside remains taboo for now, which is why the rules were loosened to allow alfresco dining with a bare minimum of red tape. John King, SFChronicle.com, "San Francisco begins to stir back to life — but there’s a long way to go," 18 June 2020 Buying stakes in companies is no longer taboo and the balanced-budget policy has been jettisoned. Aoife White, Bloomberg.com, "Why It Seems Like Everybody’s Getting a State Bailout," 5 June 2020 The anniversary remains a taboo subject on the mainland. Time, "Defiant Hongkongers Commemorate Tiananmen Square Massacre Despite Ban," 4 June 2020 However, China has long detested the vigil, the only such activity allowed on Chinese territory to commemorate victims of the crackdown, which remains a taboo subject on the mainland. Fox News, "China marks Tiananmen anniversary with crackdown, ban on Hong Kong vigil," 4 June 2020 The topic is taboo on the mainland and Chinese authorities ban public commemorations. NBC News, "On China's Tiananmen anniversary, Hong Kong outlaws mocking anthem," 28 May 2020 Sometimes neighborhood gossip can be as fulfilling as deep discussions about spirituality—or politics, another famously taboo subject. Hannah Elliott, Bloomberg.com, "Forget Baking. During Covid-19, You Need to Learn How to Have a Conversation," 12 May 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Some want to preserve Hong Kong’s relative autonomy from China, while others have joined the once-taboo call for outright independence. Vivian Wang, BostonGlobe.com, "‘Facing the darkest hour’: Hong Kong’s protest movement in crisis," 30 May 2020 Three decades later, even mentioning the massacre is still taboo on the mainland, and details of the events surrounding it are scrubbed from history books and the Internet. Jiayang Fan, The New Yorker, "Amid the Pandemic, Is Hong Kong Facing a Different Kind of Death?," 27 May 2020 To answer the call, Germany will have to break some of its deepest taboos, and begin to think and act like a great power again. Walter Russell Mead, WSJ, "Germany Needs to Become a Great Power Again," 13 May 2020 For a long time in India, it was even considered taboo to split the milk of a holy cow. Leena Trivedi-grenier, SFChronicle.com, "Bay Area cheesemakers are changing the narrative of paneer in the U.S.," 15 May 2020 Class divisions, an eternal taboo in American culture, are hard to avoid in house shows. Judy Berman, Time, "We’re a Nation of HGTV Addicts. But Is Quarantine Changing the Way We Think About Home?," 28 Apr. 2020 If anything, the trials of this intensely urban, hyper-international country hint at a global future in which travel is taboo, borders are shut, quarantines endure, and industries like tourism and entertainment are battered. Hannah Beech, BostonGlobe.com, "Singapore seemed to have coronavirus under control, until cases doubled," 20 Apr. 2020 As Western nations rip up their policy textbooks and embrace fiscal stimulus, many officials and investors see an opening for Europe to ditch its ultimate economic taboo: sharing debt between countries. Jon Sindreu, WSJ, "Now Is Not the Time for ‘Coronabonds’," 1 Apr. 2020 Unsurprisingly, in this atmosphere, machine guns—preferred by gangsters, effectively banned by a stroke of Ronald Reagan’s pen, and consistently considered taboo by most Americans—now have more advocates than ever. Adam Weinstein, The New Republic, "Should Las Vegas’s machine-gun rental industry be the future liberals want for assault weapons?," 20 Apr. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Simply repurposing her stylish wardrobe, which is normally taboo in Hollywood. Sara M Moniuszko, USA TODAY, "Jane Seymour and her 5 kids make rare public appearance together," 19 Feb. 2020 Simply repurposing her stylish wardrobe, which is normally taboo in Hollywood. Sara M Moniuszko, USA TODAY, "Jane Seymour and her 5 kids make rare public appearance together," 19 Feb. 2020 Simply repurposing her stylish wardrobe, which is normally taboo in Hollywood. Sara M Moniuszko, USA TODAY, "Jane Seymour and her 5 kids make rare public appearance together," 19 Feb. 2020 Simply repurposing her stylish wardrobe, which is normally taboo in Hollywood. Sara M Moniuszko, USA TODAY, "Jane Seymour and her 5 kids make rare public appearance together," 19 Feb. 2020 Create an open dialogue and refuse to let anything be taboo between you two. Annie Lane, oregonlive, "Dear Annie: Husband’s penchant for porn feels like betrayal and belittlement," 23 Mar. 2020 Simply repurposing her stylish wardrobe, which is normally taboo in Hollywood. Sara M Moniuszko, USA TODAY, "Jane Seymour and her 5 kids make rare public appearance together," 19 Feb. 2020 Simply repurposing her stylish wardrobe, which is normally taboo in Hollywood. Sara M Moniuszko, USA TODAY, "Jane Seymour and her 5 kids make rare public appearance together," 19 Feb. 2020 Simply repurposing her stylish wardrobe, which is normally taboo in Hollywood. Sara M Moniuszko, USA TODAY, "Jane Seymour and her 5 kids make rare public appearance together," 19 Feb. 2020

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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Time Traveler for taboo

Time Traveler

The first known use of taboo was in 1777

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Statistics for taboo

Last Updated

5 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Taboo.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/taboo. Accessed 10 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for taboo

taboo

adjective
How to pronounce taboo (audio)

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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for taboo

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with 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

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