Encyclopedia > Taboo

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A taboo is a strong social prohibition, which can relate to any area of human activity. Breaking of the taboo is considered abhorent by the society.

Taboos can include dietary restrictions (halal and kosher diets, religious vegetarianism, cannibalism for example), restrictions on sexual activities and relationships (homosexuality, incest, bestiality, pedophilia), and use of language.

No taboo is known to be universal, but some (such as the taboo against incest) occur in the majority of societies. Taboos may serve many functions, and often remain in effect after the original reason behind them has expired. Some have argued that taboos therefore reveal the history of societies when other records are lacking.

Taboos often extend to cover discussing taboo topics. This can result in taboo deformation or replacement of taboo words.

The word "taboo" is of Polynesian origin and its first recorded instance of use is by James Cook in 1771.

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