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incest taboo

Definition of Incest Taboo

(noun) A taboo that prohibits sexual relations between certain people in an individual’s family, typically between those with a close blood (consanguinity) tie.

Example of Incest Taboo

Incest Taboo Pronunciation

Pronunciation Usage Guide

Syllabification: in·cest ta·boo

Audio Pronunciation

– American English
– British English

Phonetic Spelling

  • American English – /In-sest tuh-bOO/
  • British English – /In-sest tuh-bOO/

International Phonetic Alphabet

  • American English – /ˈɪnˌsɛst tæˈbu/
  • British English – /ˈɪnsɛst təˈbuː/

Usage Notes

Related Quotations

  • “According to traditional Chinese Buddhism, a man who commits incest with his mother will be punished in seven different hells. The consequences are not so severe, however, if he lies with his sister. In order to be reincarnated, many Buddhists will have to spend a certain amount of time in heaven or in hell depending on the extent to which they have followed Buddhist rules, and sexual prescriptions are of particular importance. When sexual behaviour can lead to consequences after death, it means that we are operating completely within a religious world view. But the fact that proper or improper sex can lead to salvation or damnation does not mean that sex is in a class of its own – a whole host of other activities can have similar consequences” (Endsjø 2011:218–19)
  • “Since all known kinship systems impose an incest tabu, the transition from asexual intrafamilial relationships to the sexual relation of marriage – generally to a previously relatively unknown person – is general. But with us this transition is accompanied by a process of ’emancipation’ from the ties both to parents and to siblings, which is considerably more drastic than in most kinship systems, especially in that it applies to both sexes about equally, and includes emancipation from solidarity with all members of the family of orientation about equally, so that there is relatively little continuity with any kinship ties established by birth for anyone” (Parsons 1943:32).

Additional Information

Related Terms


Endsjø, Dag Øistein. 2011. Sex and Religion: Teachings and Taboos in the History of World Faiths. London: Reaktion.

Parsons, Talcott. 1943. “The Kinship System of the Contemporary United States.” American Anthropologist 45(1):22–38. doi:10.1525/aa.1943.45.1.02a00030.

Works Consulted

Henslin, James M. 2012. Sociology: A Down-to-Earth Approach. 10th ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

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Macionis, John. 2012. Sociology. 14th ed. Boston: Pearson.

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Merriam-Webster. (N.d.) Merriam-Webster Dictionary. (http://www.merriam-webster.com/).

Oxford University Press. (N.d.) Oxford Dictionaries. (https://www.oxforddictionaries.com/).

Schaefer, Richard. 2013. Sociology: A Brief Introduction. 10th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Shepard, Jon M., and Robert W. Greene. 2003. Sociology and You. New York: Glencoe.

Thompson, William E., and Joseph V. Hickey. 2012. Society in Focus: An Introduction to Sociology. 7th ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Tischler, Henry L. 2011. Introduction to Sociology. 10th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Wikipedia contributors. (N.d.) Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. (https://en.wikipedia.org/).

Cite the Definition of Incest Taboo

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2015. “incest taboo.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved April 22, 2024 (https://sociologydictionary.org/incest-taboo/).

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

incest taboo. (2015). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/incest-taboo/

Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2015. “incest taboo.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed April 22, 2024. https://sociologydictionary.org/incest-taboo/.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“incest taboo.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2015. Web. 22 Apr. 2024. <https://sociologydictionary.org/incest-taboo/>.