• Entry
  • Reader's guide
  • Entries A-Z
  • Subject index

Taboo

Taboo officially derives from the Tongan word tabu but is also associated with the Polynesian word tapu and the Hawaiian kapu. The word first appeared in Western culture in the journal of Captain James Cook in 1777. While taboo literally means “off-limits” or “forbidden,” it was once associated mainly with the superstitions and magic practices of certain “primitive” peoples. Early anthropologists, such as Crawford H. Toy, suggest that some societies “have never got beyond believing that the earth is flat, and in such as these taboo still reigns. But the peoples of progress have thrown off taboo as they have thrown off a hundred like things” (1899, 155). Current anthropologists believe that, far from being limited to such people groups, taboos exist as societal prohibitions ...

    • Loading...
    locked icon

    Sign in to access this content

    Get a 30 day FREE TRIAL

    • Watch videos from a variety of sources bringing classroom topics to life
    • Read modern, diverse business cases
    • Explore hundreds of books and reference titles