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

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 Japan has come a long way since journalists were warned off the taboo story of Princess Masako’s visits to fertility clinics 20 years ago. The Economist, "No country resorts to IVF more than Japan—or has less success," 24 May 2018 Which is why teens like Andrea Gonzales and Sophie Houser are creating mobile games like Tampon Run in an effort to make period talk less taboo. Noelle Devoe, Seventeen, "This Hilarious Video of Girls Sharing Their Embarrassing First Period Stories Will Bring Back So Many Memories," 8 Apr. 2015

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Menstruation and periods have become such a taboo in today’s society. Arielle Egozi, Harper's BAZAAR, "4 Reasons Why Period Sex is Actually the Best Sex," 6 July 2018 Long shrouded in a gray area of cultural relativism, eating dogs has become a taboo in the country as younger generations gravitate closer to the Western belief that a pooch is man’s best friend, rather than a tasty delicacy, according to AFP. Fox News, "South Korean court outlaws killing dogs for their meat," 21 June 2018 People construct norms, rituals and taboos to organize their economic and political life. Charles Stanish, Smithsonian, "How Feasting Rituals Help Shape Human Civilization," 5 July 2018 This week, UnderHER World is taking down the taboo of lingerie through personal stories, shoppable roundups, and a closer look at what lies underneath. Connie Wang, refinery29.com, "10 Women Share Their Sexy Selfie Tips," 25 June 2018 In Puri’s quest to exhume her grandfather from the Valley of the Fallen, Ranz saw an opportunity to confront one of the final taboos of Franco’s legacy. Matías Costa, Smithsonian, "The Battle Over the Memory of the Spanish Civil War," 28 June 2018 Still, scholars are not sure why the menstruation taboo is so strong in western Nepal, where countless villages, across an area comprising hundreds of miles, still practice it. New York Times, "Where a Taboo Is Leading to the Deaths of Young Girls," 19 June 2018 And until recently deaths linked to gun violence had been a taboo for two decades. Fortune, "'And Then You Die.' Research on Deadly Opioid Fentanyl Blocked by Federal Stalemate," 19 Apr. 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

31 Aug 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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