totem

[ toh-tuh m ]
/ ˈtoʊ təm /

noun

a natural object or an animate being, as an animal or bird, assumed as the emblem of a clan, family, or group.
an object or natural phenomenon with which a family or sib considers itself closely related.
a representation of such an object serving as the distinctive mark of the clan or group.
anything serving as a distinctive, often venerated, emblem or symbol.

Origin of totem

1750–60, Americanism; < Ojibwa ninto·te·m my totem, oto·te·man his totem (probably orig. my clan-village-mate, derivative of stem o·te·- dwell in or as a village; compare o·te·na village)

Related forms

to·tem·ic [toh-tem-ik] /toʊˈtɛm ɪk/, adjectiveto·tem·i·cal·ly, adverbsub·to·tem, nounsub·to·tem·ic, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for totem

British Dictionary definitions for totem

totem

/ (ˈtəʊtəm) /

noun

(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
a representation of such an object

Derived Forms

totemic (təʊˈtɛmɪk), adjectivetotemically, adverb

Word Origin for totem

C18: from Ojibwa nintōtēm mark of my family
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

Culture definitions for totem

totem


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.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with totem

totem


see low man on the totem pole.

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