What is the word a deep desire that some external force has kept you from gaining it? For instance in the movie Foxcatcher, the rich guy always wanted to be wrestler but his mother didn't let him because she thaught it was a low sport and it was beneath him and this made a 'deep desire' in him to be a wrestler. Is there a word for that? The word I'm looking has some kind of negative meaning. This 'deep desire' makes you do stupid things and kind of has a bad effect on your personality.

  • 1
    In the movie Foxcatcher, the rich guy (aka John du Pont) is not expressly forbidden to be involved in wrestling, rather Mrs. du Pont considers sport to be an unworthy occupation or activity and beneath a member of the noble du Pont family. Her attitude is certainly communicated to her son, though not, as I recall, explicitly.
    – user98990
    Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 21:36

15 Answers 15


forbidden fruit - The term comes from the biblical story of Adam and Eve eating from the Tree of Knowledge - the one thing that God prohibited Adam and Eve to do.

For example:

Mary made a point of telling her son not to play with the kids accross the road, but of course this was a forbidden fruit to Tom, and it made him want to play with them all the more.

The problem with drug prohibition is that it can be something of a forbidden fruit to teenagers looking to establish their identity, and doing what's prohibited and frowned upon can become an expression of that identity.

Movie censorship is a classic forbidden fruit problem - the act of censoring it makes people want to see it all the more.

  • 2
    And, if "forbidden fruit" gets old, "fatal attraction" is an excellent alternative.
    – Misha R
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 7:00

OP requests a single-word that describes 1) a singular, strong desire 2) which is by circumstances, prohibited (but, nevertheless, pursued) 3) to negative effect (makes you do stupid things).

That’s an awful lot to ask of one solitary word, as a result of which (as I write this), of the 7 answers submitted, the only two that have positive votes are multiple-word answers, while the other five answers, all of which have suggested single-words, have received no votes at all.

A Google summary of the film Foxcatcher, relates:

When wealthy John du Pont invites Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz to move to his estate and help form a wrestling team for the 1988 Olympics, Mark sees a way to step out of the shadow of his charismatic brother, Dave. However, du Pont begins to lead Mark down a dark road, causing the athlete's self-esteem to slip. Meanwhile, du Pont becomes fixated on bringing Dave into the fold, eventually propelling all three toward an unforeseen tragedy.

One way of describing John du Pont's driving and prohibited motivation is a the French loan term "idee fixe," Anglicized as "fixation." Another would be "obsession."

Idée fixe

The words idée fixe also occur explicitly: for example, in Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes:

There is the condition which the modern French psychologists have called the “idée fixe,” which may be trifling in character, and accompanied by complete sanity in every other way. A man might form such an idée fixe... and under its influence be capable of any fantastic outrage.-—Arthur Conan Doyle, The return of Sherlock Holmes

An idée fixe is a preoccupation of mind believed to be firmly resistant to any attempt to modify it, a fixation. The name originates from the French idée, "idea" and fixe, "fixed." Although not used technically to denote a particular disorder in psychology, idée fixe is used often in the description of disorders, and is employed widely in literature and everyday English. (Wikipedia)

What is it, what nameless, inscrutable, unearthly thing is it; what cozening, hidden lord and master, and cruel, remorseless emperor commands me; that against all natural lovings and longings, I so keep pushing, and crowding, and jamming myself on all the time; recklessly making me ready to do what in my own proper, natural heart, I durst not so much as dare?.-—Herman Melville, Moby Dick


1: a persistent disturbing preoccupation with an often unreasonable idea or feeling; broadly: compelling motivation ; (M-W online)

  • 1
    I don't think "idée fixe" (or obsession) carry the notion of prohibition.
    – Bruno
    Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 18:50
  • @Bruno - You are undoubtedly correct, standing alone, neither "idée fixe" nor "obsession" explicitly contain that forbidden sense (context could impart what was not explicit). But, as implied in my second paragraph, OP's request - a single word that would mean 1) a singular, strong desire 2) which is by circumstances, prohibited (but, nevertheless, pursued) 3) to negative effect - is a bit much to ask of one solitary word. I think a two-word minimum is necessary, here. My goal was simply to provide an option.
    – user98990
    Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 19:03

Yearning and Longing usually have connotations of not being within reach.

Google defines them as each other:

1. a feeling of intense longing for something.

1. a yearning desire.
"Miranda felt a wistful longing for the old days"

  • That's kind of silly. I'd rather go with something that's not circular, such as: longing (n) strong, persistent desire or craving, especially for something unattainable or distant: (longing. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged. Retrieved June 29, 2015, from Dictionary.com website: dictionary.reference.com/browse/longing)
    – phyrfox
    Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 21:15
  • I think it is the best choice since it fits any style without bringing literary/cultural connotations. Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 12:29

The commonplace is a forbidden desire or thwarted desire.


A deep desire is an "urge"; a thwarted urge is "repressed." Some psychological theories (e.g, Freudianism) find that the mechanism of repression produces bad effects on personality and behavior.

  • Urge doesn't necessarily imply prohibition, however.
    – Nicole
    Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 21:23

A deep desire which, if acted out, is considered morally offensive/ repugnant/ unthinkable/ punishable) by a society, is called taboo (adj) or "a taboo" (noun, countable).

In a sense, a family is a small society, so you could say:

  • [X] was taboo in our house.
  • 2
    This is what first came to mind for me, but I don't think it ultimately works because taboo doesn't inherently have anything to do with desire. It is just something that is considered unspeakable and forbidden.
    – mfoy_
    Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 14:34
  • 1
    @mfoy_ I thought the same thing. To illustrate, we can most likely all agree that cannibalism is taboo, but that doesn't mean we all have a desire to commit cannibalism.
    – Nicole
    Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 21:25

a weakness for

a person or thing that one is unable to resist or likes excessively.

This captures it perfectly with the elements of desire and negativity.

  • 2
    Welcome to the ELU :-). This is a great suggestion, and the fact that you included a definition and the rationale makes it a good answer (+1). The only thing missing is a reference to a dictionary, from which the definition is from :-)
    – Lucky
    Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 1:58

If one accepts that the things one ought not to do stem from a deep desire then the word would be "proscribed."

Merriam Webster: to condemn or forbid as harmful or unlawful


Tantalised / tantalise From the ancient Greek tale of Tantalus, it's the original forbidden fruit story. It's used more to express a deep desire that just can't quite be reached, so is the precursor to the ops question, that would lead them down the path. However I feel it could be a useful addition to the language for this situation

Tantalus (Ancient Greek: Τάνταλος, Tántalos) was a Greek mythological figure, most famous for his eternal punishment in Tartarus. He was made to stand in a pool of water beneath a fruit tree with low branches, with the fruit ever eluding his grasp, and the water always receding before he could take a drink. He was the father of Pelops, Niobe and Broteas, and was a son of Zeus1 and the nymph Plouto. Thus, like other heroes in Greek mythology such as Theseus and the Dioskouroi, Tantalus had both a hidden, divine parent and a mortal one.


You could possibly use the word "illicit" which means "forbidden, particularly by law", but is often associated with the "darker" side of human behaviour, in particular relating to sex and drugs, and tends to be associated with "urges".

Wrestling doesn't fall into the "sex and drugs" category but it has good connotations of something that you keep secret: a desire for illicit activities would tend to be kept hidden from other people, which sounds a bit like the desire for wrestling in this case. It suggests that the subject's desire to become a wrestler is similar in some ways to the desire that someone else might have to visit a prostitute (for example, you would never discuss it with your mother!), and this might conjure up a good effect in the mind of the reader.

  • I wish that word was used widely in this context (as in, "an illicit desire") especially as its meaning (Forbidden by law, rules, or custom.) does fit in well inasmuch as prohibited generally means prohibited by the customs of some group or entity. Commented May 21, 2019 at 14:31

This is often called frustration:


1.0 The feeling of being upset or annoyed as a result of being unable to change or achieve something:
tears of frustration rolled down her cheeks

1.1 [COUNT NOUN] An event or circumstance that causes one to feel frustrated:
the inherent frustrations of assembly line work

Oxford Dictionaries Online


I don't have a single word, but that sounds like a dashed hope.

  • Please put the explanation in the answer, do not rely on other sources to remain in the same place, or exist at all. Commented Jul 6, 2015 at 11:16

You could say lust because it does not only refer to sexual attraction.

1.1 [IN SINGULAR] A passionate desire for something:

Oxford Dictionaries Online

  • Quite true - can you copy in a dictionary definition, which relates to this more generic sense? (A new rule on the site also specifies we have to mention which dictionary we're quoting.)
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 13:47
  • The dictionary is my brain. Did I violate any copyright? Or are you asking ScotM? Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 14:27
  • No, what I'm saying is you should pop open your favorite dictionary and quote the definition which supports this usage (which I agree with), specifically so people know the usage doesn't just exist in your brain. ScotM's edit is what I had in mind.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 14:29

Unrequited. It's pretty close, only needing a little bending to fit.

  • 1
    UNREQUITED: . : not shared or returned by someone else (source: Merriam Webster learners). Neat phraseology @evan1138 ! but on this site you will need a quote or a definition to show how pretty close. Please.
    – Hugh
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 6:00

The word that came to mind is "urge."

  • 2
    This answer would be greatly improved with a definition and example usage.
    – dwjohnston
    Commented Jun 28, 2015 at 21:48

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.