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View synonyms for totem

totem

[ toh-tuhm ]

noun

  1. a natural object or an animate being, as an animal or bird, assumed as the emblem of a clan, family, or group.
  2. an object or natural phenomenon that a family or descendant group considers themselves closely related to.
  3. a representation of a natural object, animate being, etc., that serves as the distinctive mark or emblem of a clan, family, or group.
  4. anything serving as a distinctive, often venerated, emblem or symbol.


totem

/ ˈtəʊtəm; təʊˈtɛmɪk /

noun

  1. (in some societies, esp among North American Indians) an object, species of animal or plant, or natural phenomenon symbolizing a clan, family, etc, often having ritual associations
  2. a representation of such an object


totem

  1. An animal, plant, or other object in nature that has a special relationship to a person, family, or clan and serves as a sign for that person or group.


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Derived Forms

  • toˈtemically, adverb
  • totemic, adjective
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Other Words From

  • to·tem·ic [toh-, tem, -ik], adjective
  • sub·to·tem noun
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Word History and Origins

Origin of totem1

An Americanism first recorded in 1750–60; from Ojibwe ninto·te·m “my totem,” oto·te·man “his totem” (probably originally “my/his clan-village-mate,” derivative of stem o·te·- “dwell in or as a village”; compare o·te·na “village”)
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Word History and Origins

Origin of totem1

C18: from Ojibwa nintōtēm mark of my family
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Idioms and Phrases

see low man on the totem pole .
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Example Sentences

Before him is a gleaming chunk of glass, roughly the size of a toaster oven, that is carved with so many scooped-out sections to reduce its weight that it looks like an alien totem.

Each totem required its wielder to pass a test proving their mastery of each force.

For the Lummi Nation, totem poles historically are carved with symbols that represent a certain clan of a tribe or show a family or tribe’s lineage.

The latest totem in our hyperpartisan and politically polarized culture war is the terminology around race relations in America.

Scientists such as Fauci, after all, have been turned into totems of all that is wrong with the scientific community guiding public policy on things like coronavirus mitigation and climate change.

Some childhood totem, like a stuffed animal . . . or a sled?

He would never deign me with any sort of acknowledgment, because I was too low on the totem pole.

That is something I look at as a totem of what movies used to be.

Imagine how Vanessa feels, then, looking up from an even lower level on the sexual totem pole.

William, patron of numerous anti-poaching organisations, will be a very visible totem of the cause throughout the week.

They adopt a “totem” or symbol of the family and this is generally some animal, the turtle, bear and wolf being favorites.

Occasionally, in very uncultivated tribes, some family or totem claimed a monopoly of the priesthood.

Their totem was that of the serpent, and their name is not altogether unlike the Tuscarora name of this animal usquauhne.

On the contrary, it is extremely probable that they were an Algonkin totem, which had the exclusive right to the priesthood.

I allude to the institution of the Totem, which has been well known among the Algonquin tribes from the settlement of Canada.

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Definitions and idiom definitions from Dictionary.com Unabridged, based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

Idioms from The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

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