I'm looking for an adjective to describe a behavior or action that is considered to be a faux pas, or is frowned upon.

Picking your nose is [word].

Wearing socks with sandals is [word].

Breaking wind in an elevator is [word].

Voting this question down is [word].

ok, maybe not the last one...


21 Answers 21


How about uncouth?

WordNet Search says:

S: (adj) coarse, common, rough-cut, uncouth, vulgar (lacking refinement or cultivation or taste) "he had coarse manners but a first-rate mind"; "behavior that branded him as common"; "an untutored and uncouth human being"; "an uncouth soldier--a real tough guy"; "appealing to the vulgar taste for violence"; "the vulgar display of the newly rich"

  • Ah hah! that's the word I was looking for!
    – zzzzBov
    Apr 7, 2011 at 3:27
  • Is this a common word known to most native speakers? Apr 7, 2011 at 11:34
  • 1
    @Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen - It is within the UK, a touch archaic but not so much that it would stop me using it in conversation.
    – Robb
    Apr 7, 2011 at 12:34
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    You wouldn't hear it on the street, but it'd be understood. Still a weird choice. Apr 7, 2011 at 12:37
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    I'm not very inclined to vote up an answer by trolldad :P
    – BoltClock
    Apr 7, 2011 at 13:43

'frowned upon' sounds just right to me. It's general enough to fit all your cases. I don't think a two word locution is breaking the rules here.


Perhaps, simply inappropriate?

  • 1
    I think that “inappropriate” implies a dependency on context or at least time of execution that does not fit well with the examples.
    – Agos
    Apr 7, 2011 at 12:06

Maybe taboo. Except for the socks with sandals one. I'd have to go with forbidden or illegal. (At least it should be)

  • 2
    Taboo is much to strong for the examples he gave.
    – UpTheCreek
    Jun 22, 2011 at 14:37
  • "taboo" Thank you so much. I have no idea why I could not remember this word. Mar 6, 2017 at 18:27

Perhaps you're looking for the adjective verboten? If that's a bit too strong, you might try gauche.


Not done is a good term for this. Going to a random internet reference site, YourDictionary.com defines it as socially unacceptable, improper:

Bringing along two friends without asking, that’s just not done.

It also describes it as [first half of 1900’s] — but in my experience, it’s still absolutely current in British English. It may be no longer widely used in American English.

  • 1
    I also like its variant, "not the done thing", or (usually ironically "not the Done Thing".) I first saw the term in Arthur Rex, when Mordred is trying to foment a rebellion: he saw Camelot for the first time and hated it, because "It reeked of the Done Thing" (or something like that; I don't have my copy to hand.) I'd never heard the phrase, but I understood it immediately, and it seemed to capture an entire system of thought/life/society in one phrase.
    – MT_Head
    Jun 22, 2011 at 17:43

What's wrong with rude? (at least for examples 1 and 3).


I believe the word you are looking here is:


From http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/improper

—Synonyms 1–3. inapplicable, unsuited, unfit. 2. indecorous. Improper, indecent, unbecoming, unseemly are applied to that which is unfitting or not in accordance with propriety. Improper has a wide range, being applied to whatever is not suitable or fitting, and often specifically to what does not conform to the standards of conventional morality: improper diet; improper behavior in church; improper language. Indecent, a strong word, is applied to what is offensively contrary to standards of propriety and especially of modesty: indecent behavior, literature. Unbecoming is applied to what is especially unfitting in the person concerned: conduct unbecoming a minister. Unseemly is applied to whatever is unfitting or improper under the circumstances: unseemly mirth.


Uncivilized? Definitely for the downvote, and I think suits the others as well. The Russian version, 'nekulturny' is quite a bit stronger, and I've seen it a few times in English.


This answer to your question is reprehensible!


Picking your nose is rewarding.

Wearing socks with sandals is weird.

Breaking wind in an elevator is unavoidable.

Voting this question down is mean.

But to answer your question: horrible is another option.


Normal people usually say "frowned upon" for this scenario, if you're describing how society is:

Picking your nose is frowned upon.
Wearing socks with sandals is frowned upon.
Breaking wind in an elevator is frowned upon.

"Discouraged" may be used in contexts where the speaker is trying harder to actually get you to not do these things.


My personal preference would be disfavored. It means generally viewed with disfavor or disapproval. That's almost an exact match, IMO.


My mother would always use the phrase "infra dig" for things like this. Literally, beneath one's dignity.

  • 2
    My Mother would usually just give me a clip around the ear ;)
    – immutabl
    Apr 7, 2011 at 10:14

Infra dig - Literally means 'beneath one's dignity', but also used to imply unacceptability.

See World Wide Words

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    And who actually says this? Apr 7, 2011 at 12:35
  • @Tomalak My mum uses it frequently, however, the OP requested suggestions for suitable phrases and didn't specify the need for words in common usage Apr 9, 2011 at 9:58

I believe many things that are "frowned upon" would generally be considered poor form.

For example, picking your nose in public is poor form. Rolling up the resultant boogers, and eating them, is even worse form.


Discouraged is the word I want to fill that blank with. Not strictly an adjective though.

  • It's as much an adjective in this context as is "gone" in "it's gone". Apr 7, 2011 at 12:34
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    Well, I'm not a linguist, and I could be completely wrong, but I thought that using "discouraged" in this context (as natural as it would sound to me) would technically be using it as a past participle, and thereby making a passive-voice sentence that would have had any of my former high school English teachers reaching for their red pen of disapproval. :-)
    – Adam Smith
    Apr 8, 2011 at 1:48

How about: common? It's a word often used by the British to express disdain and disparagement. Sometimes used in unison with "muck" as in: "Look at him, picking his nose and "breaking wind" like that. He's as common as muck!"

I wouldn't use it with someone who wears socks under his/her sandals though.


definition: 6. Unrefined or coarse in manner; vulgar: behavior that branded him as common.

common as muck

"an impolite way of describing someone who is from a low social class You can tell from the way she talks she's as common as muck."


What about despicable? It's the first word that came to my mind... Maybe it's a bit too strong but here you have the synonyms:

contemptible, loathsome, hateful, detestable, reprehensible, abhorrent, abominable, awful, heinous; odious, vile, low, mean, abject, shameful, ignominious, shabby, ignoble, disreputable, discreditable, unworthy; informal dirty, rotten, lowdown, lousy; beastly;

Also woeful and pitiable can be included.

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    Despicable and its synonyms are way too strong for this.
    – Marthaª
    Apr 6, 2011 at 23:31
  • As you can see I said it myself, but I thought I could give him a wider view. Plus, I also included woeful, which is not that strong or at least this is how I see it, also considering its translation in my language.
    – Alenanno
    Apr 6, 2011 at 23:46
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    My point is that they're not "a bit too strong", but "way way way too strong". As in, incorrect. (I also don't think woeful and pitiable would work too well, but they're acres better than despicable and its ilk.)
    – Marthaª
    Apr 7, 2011 at 0:28
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    @Martha: +1 for “acres better”. Best comparative I’ve seen in a while, by several bushels.
    – PLL
    Apr 7, 2011 at 2:07

"tasteless" is my first guess, which upon further consideration is not a 100% hit.

"proof for bad education" is my second guess.

Third is "suboptimal", being quite an understatement, but transporting the message with a bit of humor, and leaving enough room for interpretation that the socks-in-a-sandal-wearers are not really hurt, yet reach those who hate that combination.

Fourth is the German word "abstossend" in English, which as far as I know is "abhorrent", or "repellent". The German pick is absolutely appropriate, but I am not sure about the Enlgish word.

  • Downvote, but no desriptive comment. Thanks! Jun 2, 2011 at 21:28

How about uncivilized or uncivil?

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