Something considered taboo is naughty, something society considers a no-no. For example, it is taboo to ask people how much money they earn.

Taboo is one of those rare words in the English language that doesn't have Greek or Latin or French roots, coming instead from the South Pacific Islands in the eighteenth century via the explorer Captain Cook. For many islanders some things were tabu, meaning not only could they not be done but they could not be talked about either for risk of offending the Gods. This latter meaning still applies today (minus the spiritual underpinning), when we say that certain subjects are "taboo," meaning off-limits for discussion.

Definitions of taboo
  1. noun
    an inhibition or ban resulting from social custom or emotional aversion
    synonyms: tabu
    see moresee less
    type of:
    the quality of being inhibited
  2. noun
    a prejudice (especially in Polynesia and other South Pacific islands) that prohibits the use or mention of something because of its sacred nature
    synonyms: tabu
    see moresee less
    type of:
    bias, preconception, prejudice
    a partiality that prevents objective consideration of an issue or situation
  3. adjective
    excluded from use or mention
    “a taboo subject”
    synonyms: forbidden, out, prohibited, proscribed, tabu, verboten
    not permitted
  4. adjective
    forbidden to profane use especially in South Pacific islands
    synonyms: tabu
    concerned with religion or religious purposes
  5. verb
    declare as sacred and forbidden
    see moresee less
    type of:
    place under restrictions; limit access to
Word Family

Test prep from the experts

Boost your test score with programs developed by’s experts.

  • Proven methods: Learn faster, remember longer with our scientific approach.
  • Personalized plan: We customize your experience to maximize your learning.
  • Strategic studying: Focus on the words that are most crucial for success.


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 8 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 10 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week


  • Number of words: 700+
  • Duration: 10 weeks
  • Time: 1 hour / week