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See more synonyms for potlatch on Thesaurus.com
  1. (among American Indians of the northern Pacific coast, especially the Kwakiutl) a ceremonial festival at which gifts are bestowed on the guests and property is destroyed by its owner in a show of wealth that the guests later attempt to surpass.
  2. Pacific Northwest. a party or celebration.
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Origin of potlatch

1835–45; < Chinook Jargon pátlač, páλač < Nootka p̉aλp̉a- (reduplication of p̉a- make ceremonial gifts in potlatch) + suffix marking iterative aspect
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for potlatch

Historical Examples

  • Then he proceeds to invite all his friends, up and down the coast, to a potlatch.

    Jack the Young Canoeman

    George Bird Grinnell

  • And that night at Lewis's they gave Howard Eaton a potlatch.

    Through Glacier Park

    Mary Roberts Rinehart

  • Potlatch (Give)konaway (every)sun (day)nesika (our)muckamuck.

  • He had just returned from a Government “potlatch” at the Tulalip agency.

    Blazing The Way

    Emily Inez Denny

  • We took materials for a potlatch,—leaf-tobacco, rice and sugar.

British Dictionary definitions for potlatch


  1. anthropol a competitive ceremonial activity among certain North American Indians, esp the Kwakiutl, involving a lavish distribution of gifts and the destruction of property to emphasize the wealth and status of the chief or clan
  2. US and Canadian informal a wild party or revel
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Word Origin

C19: from Chinook, from Nootka patshatl a giving, present
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

Word Origin and History for potlatch


1845, "a gift," from Chinook jargon pot-latch, "a gift," from Nootka (Wakashan) patshatl "giving, gift." Later (1865) in sense "ceremony in which gifts are exchanged."

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper