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 Any formal coalition between Jewish and Arab parties remains taboo in Israeli politics, fraught with danger even. Jo-ann Mort, The New York Review of Books, "The Trump–Netanyahu Plan to Force Arab Population Transfer," 3 Feb. 2020 And maybe, in time, the relationship between the four of you will develop to a point that her staying overnight is more of a natural progression and a given, versus something taboo and strange. Author: Wayne And Wanda, Anchorage Daily News, "For these debt-stricken millennials, living with parents is a lifeline — and a dating conundrum," 6 Oct. 2019 The medium also makes room to discuss taboo topics. Ananya Bhattacharya, Quartz India, "India’s podcast buzz is now getting loud and clear," 18 Dec. 2019 Living in bodies often seen as taboo by western society and western medicine, the film looks at the relationships intersex people have with their bodies and their identities in a world that is not always accepting of those born with a difference. Suyin Haynes, Time, "New Documentary Explores the Realities of Being an Intersex Person and Their Treatment By Society," 19 June 2019 Why are foot fetishes considered so taboo in mainstream society? Sophie Saint Thomas, Allure, "Everything You've Wanted to Know About Foot Fetishes, But Were Afraid to Ask," 17 Aug. 2018 In the act of composing these images, some of which dealt with private, taboo moments that had rarely, if ever, figured in the world of fine photography, Heyman reclaimed not just her own humanity but that of her subjects’ as well. Naomi Fry, The New Yorker, "Abigail Heyman’s Groundbreaking Images of Women’s Lives," 1 Nov. 2019 By having her around more and establishing her as a more familiar part of the household, her presence will begin to feel more normal and less taboo. Author: Wayne And Wanda, Anchorage Daily News, "For these debt-stricken millennials, living with parents is a lifeline — and a dating conundrum," 6 Oct. 2019 My hope is by continuing to share grief and loss, and addressing these taboo subjects head on it will help people who have experienced the same to feel less alone. Maria Pasquini, PEOPLE.com, "Meghan McCain Was 'Petrified' to Reveal She Had Suffered a Miscarriage: 'Don't Feel Bad for Us'," 21 July 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Charmin's ads may seem strange to some, because the topic of toilet time can be an uncomfortable taboo for many people, the company said. Chauncey Alcorn, CNN, "Charmin's toilet paper delivery robot wants to ease your 'poop anxiety'," 8 Jan. 2020 Drinking remains a taboo in Qatar despite the rapid socio-economic changes the nation has seen in recent decades, transforming from a small pearl trading center into a diverse country with one of the highest per capita GDPs in the world. Adam Rasmi, Quartz, "Beer is giving 2022 World Cup host Qatar a headache," 13 July 2019 Redefining holiday explosives as a normalized consumer product remains a longstanding taboo for so many states. Luke Winkie, Vox, "Anime brings in more than $19 billion a year. Its artists are earning barely enough to survive.," 2 July 2019 But linking crime to mass migration was long a taboo in the public debate. Bojan Pancevski, WSJ, "Swedes Vote as Establishment Faces Down Far-Right Challenge," 9 Sep. 2018 Opera was taboo, but a performance one evening in the red-cushioned opera house of the former shah, which was billed as Kurdish folk music, included Verdi. The Economist, "Trapped in Iran," 28 Jan. 2020 For many health systems, the subject of drug diversion by staff members is taboo and swept under the rug. Lauren Lollini, STAT, "A hospital staffer diverted drugs, which gave me hepatitis C. That happens more often than you think," 20 Dec. 2019 Sophia Huang Xueqin is not afraid to speak out on issues considered taboo in China. Time Staff, Time, "These Are the 10 'Most Urgent' Threats to Press Freedom in December 2019," 2 Dec. 2019 Talking about wills and estate planning while loved ones are still with us is considered taboo by many, and when asked about, many people get suspicious of the inquirer’s intent. Branded Content Contributor, Orange County Register, "Having a Will Is Worthless If Your Beneficiaries Can’t Find It," 19 Nov. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Simply repurposing her stylish wardrobe, which is normally taboo in Hollywood. Cydney Henderson, USA TODAY, "Jane Seymour, 68, says 'not every designer will dress someone my age’," 14 Nov. 2019

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

16 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Taboo.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tabu. Accessed 22 Feb. 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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