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, prohibition of an act or the use of an object or word under pain of punishment. Originally a Polynesian word, taboo can apply to the sacred or consecrated or to the dangerous, unclean, and forbidden.
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tabuany ritual prohibition on certain activities. The term originally comes from Captain Cook's description of Polynesian custom. It may involve the avoidance of certain people, places, objects or actions, and the universal incest taboo is a much cited example of the latter. Much work on this area has been carried out from within anthropology in an attempt to explain why, for instance, different foods are avoided within various cultures. Functionalists prefer explanations of taboo and TOTEMISM in terms of group solidarity, whilst structuralists, such as M. DOUGLAS in Purity and Danger (1966), have focused on taboos as a problem in classifying ambiguity.
1. (in Polynesia and other islands of the South Pacific) marked off as simultaneously sacred and forbidden
2. ritual restriction or prohibition, esp of something that is considered holy or unclean