taboo

ta·boo also ta·bu (tă′bo͞o’, tə-)
n. pl. ta·boos also ta·bus 1) A ban or inhibition resulting from social custom or emotional aversion. 2) a) A prohibition, especially in Polynesia and other South Pacific islands, excluding something from use, approach, or mention because of its sacred and inviolable nature. b) An object, word, or act protected by such a prohibition.
adj. Excluded or forbidden from use, approach, or mention: »

a taboo subject.

tr.v. ta·booed, ta·boo·ing, ta·boos also ta·bued or ta·bu·ing or ta·bus To exclude from use, approach, or mention; place under taboo.
[Tongan tabu, under prohibition, from Proto-Polynesian *tapu.]
Word History: The word taboo first appears in English in the journals of Captain James Cook, the British explorer who led three expeditions to the Pacific Ocean and greatly broadened European knowledge about the peoples living on the Pacific islands. In 1777, Cook wrote that the word "taboo ... has a very comprehensive meaning; but, in general, signifies that a thing is forbidden.... When any thing is forbidden to be eat, or made use of, they say, that it is taboo." Cook was in Tonga at the time, and so it is the Tongan form tabu that is the source of the English word taboo. However, words related to Tongan tabu are found in other Polynesian languages, such as Maori tapu and Hawaiian kapu. (In the history of Hawaiian, the original Polynesian t-sound has regularly changed to a k-sound.) Other words Cook brought back from his journeys include tattoo (also of Polynesian origin) and kangaroo (from Guugu Yimidhirr, a language of Australia).

Word Histories. 2014.

Synonyms:

Look at other dictionaries:

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  • taboo — [tə bo͞o′, tabo͞o′] n. pl. taboos [< a Polynesian language: cf. Tongan, Samoan, Maori, etc. tapu] 1. a) among some Polynesian peoples, a sacred prohibition put upon certain people, things, or acts which makes them untouchable, unmentionable,… …   English World dictionary

  • Taboo — Ta*boo , v. t. [imp. & p. p. {Tabooed}; p. pr. & vb. n. {Tabooing}.] To put under taboo; to forbid, or to forbid the use of; to interdict approach to, or use of; as, to taboo the ground set apart as a sanctuary for criminals. [Written also {tabu} …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Taboo — Ta*boo , a. [Written also {tabu} and {tapu}.] [Polynesian tabu, tapu, sacred, under restriction, a prohibition.] Set apart or sacred by religious custom among certain races of Polynesia, New Zealand, etc., and forbidden to certain persons or… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • taboo — 1777 (in Cook s A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean ), consecrated, inviolable, forbidden, unclean or cursed, explained in some English sources as being from Tongan (Polynesian language of the island of Tonga) ta bu sacred, from ta mark + bu especially …   Etymology dictionary

  • taboo — [adj] not allowed, permitted anathema, banned, beyond the pale*, disapproved, forbidden, frowned on*, illegal, off limits*, outlawed, out of bounds*, prohibited, proscribed, reserved, restricted, ruled out, unacceptable, unmentionable,… …   New thesaurus

  • Taboo — Ta*boo , n. A total prohibition of intercourse with, use of, or approach to, a given person or thing under pain of death, an interdict of religious origin and authority, formerly common in the islands of Polynesia; interdiction. [Written also… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • taboo — index ban, exclude, forbid, illicit, inhibit, prohibition, proscribe (prohibit), restraint …   Law dictionary

  • taboo — is a noun, adjective, and verb, and is pronounced with the stress on the second syllable in all three. The noun has the plural form taboos, and the verb has inflected forms taboos, tabooed, tabooing. The variant form tabu is restricted to… …   Modern English usage

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