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

Keep scrolling for more

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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

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 China The pushback against Trump on China is that tariffs are taboo and dangerous. Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, "Trump — or What, Exactly?," 27 Aug. 2019 Arvind Gopalratnam, executive director of the foundation, said kids today are dealing with different issues than previous generations, and through that, mental health care is becoming a topic that isn't so taboo. Grace Connatser, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Milwaukee Bucks Foundation announces over $300,000 in grants to 15 community organizations," 25 July 2019 The effect of the lighthearted sequence is not only to take a swipe at the feminine-hygiene industrial complex, but to dismiss the notion that discussion of menstruation should be taboo. Celia Wren, Washington Post, "A little earnest absurdism about bodily functions goes a long way in the Welders’ ‘LadyM’," 16 July 2019 All these assessments, while generally accurate, were taboo in public Mexican discourse. Tracy Wilkinson, latimes.com, "Trump's strong reaction to leak of British memos puts a chill on diplomacy," 11 July 2019 Tuesdays' historic ruling is win for LGBTQ activists and supporters in a country -- and region -- where homosexuality remains largely taboo. Kara Fox, CNN, "Botswana scraps gay sex laws in big victory for LGBTQ rights in Africa," 11 June 2019 Beyond these factors, though, is an underlying cause that may contribute to many of the things our society thinks of as taboo or bad: fear of the unknown. Sara Radin, Teen Vogue, "Taking Mental Health Medication Shouldn't Be Shameful," 24 May 2019 Aster is a longtime fan of the horror genre and kicked off his career with a controversial short film called The Strange Thing About the Johnsons, in which a son develops a taboo incestuous relationship with this father. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "Midsommar is a slasher film with artsy ambitions that doesn’t quite work," 4 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The rule change represented, in part, an acknowledgement that many states have decriminalized or even legalized marijuana, and that the drug now carries less of a taboo. Pamela Wood, baltimoresun.com, "Across the board, Baltimore area police departments are much whiter than the people they serve," 11 Sep. 2019 Within the system of taboos of these egalitarian hunter-gatherers, laughing in certain situations can cause storms, illness, or even death. Alice Rudge, Quartz, "Why we laugh when we know we shouldn’t," 28 Aug. 2019 To start, given that his family's from Austin, Texas, politics has never been a taboo subject around the Lafair dinner table. Nathan Mattise, Ars Technica, "Mapmaker: The Gerrymandering game that puts the fun in undermining democracy," 19 Aug. 2019 Some add that any campus official who disputes this dogma, or who inadvertently violates the ever-expanding catalogue of taboos, should be hounded out of their job. The Economist, "As societies polarise, free speech is under threat. It needs defenders," 15 Aug. 2019 She and Philo met and fell in love, something that seems to be a bit of a taboo pairing in this world. Andrew Liptak, The Verge, "Amazon introduces Carnival Row’s world and characters in two new trailers," 20 July 2019 Twister’s subversion of taboos around personal space, no longer fatal baggage, quickly became one of its biggest assets. Michael Waters, Smithsonian, "When Twister Was Too Risqué For America," 10 July 2019 The first day of school is on the horizon for Bay Area teenagers, and with the fresh notebooks and new locker combinations also comes a set of Asian American parents determined to change how their peers look at the taboo topic of mental health. Gwendolyn Wu, SFChronicle.com, "Theater becomes therapy to help South Bay Asian American parents understand their kids," 9 Aug. 2019 Even in the early '90s, when sexuality was considered too taboo of a subject for television, MTV tried to spotlight LGBTQ young people, including the third season's Pedro Zamora, a Cuban-American gay man with AIDS. Kendall Trammell, CNN, "'Are You The One?' is making history. But for MTV, it's just another show championing LGBTQ voices," 29 June 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about taboo

Dictionary Entries near taboo

tabloid

tabo-

tabonuco

taboo

tabor

Tabora

taborer

Statistics for taboo

Last Updated

14 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for taboo

The first known use of taboo was in 1777

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

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

What made you want to look up taboo? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

authorized for issue (as a bond)

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Musical Words Quiz

  • gramophone
  • Which word describes a musical performance marked by the absence of instrumental accompaniment?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!