Defining Taboo: Definition # 2

Posted: May 12, 2013 in Defining Taboo
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Definition: “A ban or inhibition resulting from social custom or emotional aversion; an object, a word, or an act protected by such a prohibition.”1

Breakdown: What is intriguing about this definition of taboo is its use of the term “emotional aversion.” Aversion, in its simplest form, implies disgust. Emotions are universal on a general level, and yet completely subjective on an individual level. What one may find disgusting is not what another may find disgusting. Thus, emotional aversion places taboo into a subjective, individual, specific sort of ban. More than society placing chains around certain actions—a person places their own chains about actions that they dislike. Here, taboo becomes individualized and arbitrary, and for that taboo may not be bad so much as it is hated. But what is hated is not always bad. The second definition views taboo more as a means of protection, similar to it being too dangerous for society. But once again we run into this problem: one vs. all. What happens when society doesn’t want protection?

1 The Free Dictionary, “taboo,” accessed May 01, 2013,

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