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The Collaborative International Dictionary

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 uses; hence, prohibited under severe penalties; interdicted; as, food, places, words, customs, etc., may be taboo.


n. (alternative form of taboo English) vb. (alternative form of taboo English)

Tapu (Polynesian culture)

Tapu, tabu or kapu is a Polynesian traditional concept denoting something holy or sacred, with " spiritual restriction" or "implied prohibition"; it involves rules and prohibitions. The English word taboo derives from this later meaning and dates from Captain James Cook's visit to Tonga in 1777.

The concept exists in many societies, including traditional Fijian, Māori, Samoan, Rapanui, Tahitian, Hawaiian, and Tongan cultures, in most cases using a recognisably similar word, though the Rotuman term for this concept is "ha'a".


Tapu may refer to:

  • Ţapu, a village in Micăsasa Commune, Sibiu County, Romania
  • Tapu (Ottoman law), a form of land tenure in the Ottoman Empire
  • Tapu (Polynesian culture), a concept of sacredness from which the word taboo is derived
  • Tapu, New Zealand, a settlement on the Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand
  • Land registration in the Ottoman Empire, subject to the tapu resmi tax
Tapu (Ottoman law)

Tapu (also Tabu) was a permanent lease of state-owned arable land to a peasant family in the Ottoman Empire. The term was also used to indicate the title deed that certified tapu rights.

In Palestine, the Turkish word "tapu" was pronounced "tabu" by the Arabs, and had been carried over into hebrew as such.

The family head acquired the usufruct of the land and was able to transmit this right to his male descendants upon his death. In return, he pledged to cultivate the land on a continuous basis and to meet a series of fiscal requirements and obligations to fulfill specific services to the state or to the sipahis.

Tapu is the basis of the Ottoman agrarian system revolving around family-scale units called çifthane.

Usage examples of "tapu".

Saul, the stolen adze, and the violation of tapu, were all subsidiary factors?

Farrlanders wonder if they had broken some tapu of which they were unaware.

If there are any special tapu in place for the duration, please tell us and we will obey them.

Captain Stern, there are no stronger tapu on the islands than those surrounding this herb.

But in tapu of religion you are subject to the same laws as everyone but the Royal Clan, the chiefs, and the Old Men.

His followers think we have committed murder, for their tapu are different than our own.

Chilsey should never have broken the tapu, and the Varuans should not have killed them so needlessly.

The historian saw children with their skulls crushed, babies spitted on tapu skewers.

Joel was munching on a bag of Tapu potato chips in front of a computer console, and Scott had just stretched out on a cot to rest when something unexpected happened.

Every living species is a proper part of a world, and it would be tapu for us to destroy any of them.

Her mother was one of the island women, a tapu woman who claimed she had been made pregnant by a wave from the ocean.

By your own admission, Sir Griffin did not honor the tapu or much else about Solonesian society.

The tikis had stretched their powerful tapu across time and brought an end to Hamilton and Waterstone.

This kick had not hurt him beyond a passing sting, whereas it placed his enemy in his merciless grasp, for by that interruption in this sacred ceremony, Kamo had broken tapu, the punishment of which was death, unless the one injured chose to interfere, the punishment and mode being entirely at his option.

For instance, in New Zealand a tapu may be placed on shellfish to allow the numbers to recover after a bad season.