Meaning of taboo in English:


Pronunciation /təˈbuː/

See synonyms for taboo

Translate taboo into Spanish

nounplural noun taboos

(also tabu)
  • 1A social or religious custom prohibiting or restricting a particular practice or forbidding association with a particular person, place, or thing.

    ‘many taboos have developed around physical exposure’
    • ‘the use of violence must remain a taboo in our society’
    • ‘Freud applies his notion of taboo in three ways’
    • ‘Accurate statistics are hard to come by, especially in a country where social taboos and threats keep many victims silent.’
    • ‘Our country has substantial number of disabled people who have excelled in various walks of life, overcoming poverty and social taboos.’
    • ‘The cabaret performers and their audiences shared a more or less hidden opposition to social taboos and censorship.’
    • ‘Breaking cultural taboos in this attempt to make money does not seem to matter.’
    • ‘Cultural taboos surrounding sexuality and pregnancy also contribute to the low rates of health service access.’
    • ‘During the Civil War, hungry Northern soldiers, unaware of the social taboo surrounding peanuts, began eating them.’
    • ‘The thing is that they're also trained to violate the ultimate taboo of society - to kill people.’
    • ‘There are no food taboos, although Buddhist monks may practice vegetarianism and observe other food taboos.’
    • ‘The strategy broke powerful religious taboos against suicide and the murder of innocents.’
    • ‘I'm surprised because the film wasn't about breaking taboos.’
    • ‘The thrill is in breaking taboos, and that is why taboos are fun to have around.’
    • ‘Through mythology, one is able to violate the taboos of society without the guilt.’
    • ‘Both Islam and the Orthodox Christian tradition require rigorous observance of fasts and food taboos.’
    • ‘What drove him to shatter taboos and invite hatred for his conclusions?’
    • ‘The Communist Party decided to dramatise its rather unique willingness to challenge taboos.’
    • ‘For her, the relaxing of rules and taboos about sex have been pivotal in changing the way we think.’
    • ‘The members of one clan from northern Kenya observe a taboo on eating fish.’
    • ‘All of these are thought to be dependent on the ability to observe taboos.’
    prohibition, proscription, veto, interdiction, interdict, ban, restriction, boycott, non-acceptance, anathema
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1A practice that is prohibited or restricted by social or religious custom.
      ‘speaking about sex is a taboo in his country’
      • ‘To talk favourably of the Enlightenment has become something of a taboo in recent years.’
      • ‘Prostitution is in this country a taboo; people don't like to admit that it exsists.’
      • ‘Sexes are segregated and nudity is a taboo.’
      • ‘Studying during these hours is a taboo for us.’
      • ‘Underage drinking exists in this country because it is a taboo and therefore cool to indulge in.’
      • ‘Men as well as women are victims of domestic abuse but discussing that fact is a taboo in our society.’
      • ‘Torture is a taboo that should not be broken.’
      • ‘For conservative societies, sex before marriage is a taboo.’
      • ‘I suppose they are trying to project the image that this is a taboo, not a norm, in our society.’
      • ‘It is a taboo to mention the real cause of these problems.’


(also tabu)
  • 1Prohibited or restricted by social custom.

    ‘sex was a taboo subject’
    • ‘As a writer, he comes across as someone who feels that by trumpeting loudly about a taboo subject he is breaking down social barriers.’
    • ‘Al-Jazeera discusses taboo political and social topics.’
    • ‘The fact that the subject is taboo also means that a man who is traumatized by the experience may be retraumatized again and again, with each child born to him.’
    • ‘Our culture has become distinctly sexualised over the past 20 years, and subjects that were once taboo are now openly discussed.’
    • ‘Hearing them talk, you'd have thought the very subject was taboo: awe, wonder and, yes, fear crept into their voices.’
    • ‘But his live show is much more casually cruel, and no matter how sensitive a subject, nothing is taboo for his one-liners.’
    • ‘As society engages in dialogue on these issues no subject will be taboo.’
    • ‘Certain subjects are taboo, or too emotive to be examined with objectivity.’
    • ‘For many it is a taboo subject which leaves people feeling isolated and vulnerable.’
    • ‘In front of the big screen this behaviour is generally considered taboo.’
    • ‘Divorce is still taboo in some cultures - find an immigrant family that has been rocked by one.’
    • ‘Information and counseling on once taboo subjects are now freely available, yet traditional mores still predominate.’
    • ‘Why do you think sex is still so taboo in the U.S.?’
    • ‘On a day for women, culturally taboo subjects like female sexuality can be openly acknowledged.’
    • ‘Contraception and abortion - once taboo topics - have been enshrined into law.’
    • ‘In the not too distant past, talk of sex was strictly taboo.’
    • ‘But whether it should be taboo even to discuss such issues, as some are arguing, is another question.’
    • ‘The topic is so taboo that it almost can't be talked about.’
    • ‘Previously taboo areas were opened for examination, and laws and legal attitudes were modified.’
    • ‘Once taboo, birth control and family planning are quietly available to discreet couples.’
    forbidden, prohibited, banned, proscribed, vetoed, ruled out, interdicted, outlawed, not permitted, not allowed, illegal, illicit, unlawful, impermissible, not acceptable, restricted, frowned on, beyond the pale, off limits, out of bounds
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1Designated as sacred and prohibited.
      ‘the burial ground was seen as a taboo place’
      • ‘In the Solomon Islands, shrines are always taboo places.’
      • ‘Christianity was another force that was gradually eliminating dangers from spirits based at taboo sites.’
      • ‘Totems of specific clans, healers, or royal dynasties are taboo to certain members of some ethnic groups.’
      • ‘As they saw it, many details concerning clan histories and taboo places have been forgotten over the past few generations.’
      • ‘The hornets are numerous down in that cave; we do not touch it; it is taboo.’
      • ‘I mean it doesn't mean that I want to be rude, it's not that, it's just that you go to certain spaces that are taboo.’
      • ‘Not only taboo places but also mountain tops were known to be frequented by spirits.’

verbverb taboos, verb tabooing, verb tabooed

(also tabu)
[with object]
  • Place under a taboo.

    ‘traditional societies taboo female handling of food during this period’
    • ‘That these kinds of magazines have been tabooed in our society; forced universally under mattresses, in private drawers, and into unmarked brown boxes.’
    • ‘Some magic users, magicians, and quite strong ones at that, decided that magic shouldn't be tabooed and decided to rebel against the society that had made them outsiders for so long.’
    • ‘As the child accepts that bodily products such as excrement and vomit are tabooed as repugnant and dirty, simultaneously it begins to form concepts of cleanliness and propriety that work toward defining the emergent sense of selfhood.’
    • ‘Rooted in an era that tabooed discussions of sex, he rebounded to the opposite extreme and exaggerated the roles of sex and sexual conflict in the development of the psyche.’
    • ‘Conversely, in some cultures, when a person dies, his or her name and similar sounding words may be tabooed, so new words have to be coined or borrowed.’
    • ‘Clearly it was she, and felt sorry for the creature outside, that she was tabooed never to speak with.’
    • ‘Online communities allow a degree of security in, and can hence facilitate, the declaration of socially marginalized or tabooed identities, such as gay, lesbian or various fetish orientations.’
    • ‘She asks whether statutory rape laws really protect girls, or serve to target them by making them sexually tabooed.’
    • ‘Almost all animal flesh is edible and nutritious, yet most human societies taboo many of the animal species available to them.’
    • ‘The inside of the tabooed room leads to the outside; here too it constitutes an inside of the external local world associated with modernity.’
    • ‘As for myself, I no longer care for chemical research, and science is a tabooed topic in my household.’
    • ‘Sacred and tabooed beliefs also work as membership badges in coalitions.’


Late 18th century from Tongan tabu ‘set apart, forbidden’; introduced into English by Captain James Cook.