This paper presents an approach to fuzzy rule base design using tabu search algorithm (TSA) for nonlinear system modeling. TSA is used to evolve the structure and the parameter of fuzzy rule base. The use of the TSA, in conjunction with a systematic neighbourhood structure for the determination of fuzzy rule base parameters, leads to a significant improvement in the performance of the model. To demonstrate the effectiveness of the presented method, several numerical examples given in the literature are examined. The results obtained by means of the identified fuzzy rule bases are compared with those belonging to other modeling approaches in the literature. The simulation results indicate that the method based on the use of a TSA performs an important and very effective modeling procedure in fuzzy rule base design in the modeling of the nonlinear or complex systems. (c) 2007, ISA. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.