[ pot-lach ]
See synonyms for potlatch on Thesaurus.com
  1. (among Indigenous people 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.

Origin of potlatch

First recorded in 1835–45; from Chinook Jargon pátlač, páλač, from Nuu-chah-nulth (Nootka) p̉aλp̉a- (reduplication of p̉a- “make ceremonial gifts in potlatch”) + suffix marking iterative aspect

Words Nearby potlatch

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use potlatch in a sentence

  • potlatch is a wonderful day for children, a glorious introduction to the science of economics.

    The Great Potlatch Riots | Allen Kim Lang
  • Costly entertainments, such as the potlatch or the ball, are peculiarly adapted to serve this end.

  • Feed up th' dogs,' says he, 'an' in two shlapes, we'll hav' th' biggest potlatch in th' histhry av th' thribe.

    Connie Morgan in Alaska | James B. Hendryx
  • As the time approached, many canoes were on the Bay, headed by a joyous crowd going to the potlatch.

    Memoirs of Orange Jacobs | Orange Jacobs
  • No one can be sure of closing his bargain, until the terms are duly arranged, the potlatch given, and the horse delivered.

    Mount Rainier | Various

British Dictionary definitions for potlatch


/ (ˈpɒtˌlætʃ) /

  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

Origin of potlatch

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