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90s Slang You Should Know

totem pole

a pole or post carved and painted with totemic figures, erected by Indians of the northwest coast of North America, especially in front of their houses.
a hierarchical system:
the bureaucratic totem pole.
Origin of totem pole
First recorded in 1875-80 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for totem pole
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Directly in front of the house a totem pole is placed, and near by a memorial pole is erected.

  • You see, the waistcoats and the totem pole disappeared, but so did the plate—the fruit plate.

    The Deep Lake Mystery Carolyn Wells
  • And you had in your hand the totem pole and it chanced to make a red mark on the side of the window frame?

    The Deep Lake Mystery Carolyn Wells
  • Her uncle did say she could have the waistcoats for her fancy work, and he gave her the totem pole, too.

    The Deep Lake Mystery Carolyn Wells
  • Those pesky tourists always whittle a chunk out of my totem pole for a souvenir.

    Solar Stiff Chas. A. Stopher
  • The erection of a totem pole is made a grand affair, and is often talked of for a year or two beforehand.

    Travels in Alaska John Muir
British Dictionary definitions for totem pole

totem pole

a pole carved or painted with totemic figures set up by certain North American Indians, esp those of the NW Pacific coast, within a village as a tribal symbol or, sometimes, in memory of a dead person
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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totem pole in Culture

totem pole definition

Among some Native Americans, a pole on which totems are carved. The totem pole usually stands in front of a house or shelter.

Note: A totem pole is thought of figuratively as a symbol of a hierarchy: “Where does she stand on the totem pole?”
The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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