• synonyms


[toh-tuh-miz-uh m]
  1. the practice of having totems.
  2. the system of tribal division according to totems.
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Origin of totemism

An Americanism dating back to 1785–95; totem + -ism
Related formsto·tem·is·tic, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for totemism

Historical Examples of totemism

British Dictionary definitions for totemism


  1. the belief in kinship of groups or individuals having a common totem
  2. the rituals, taboos, and other practices associated with such a belief
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Derived Formstotemist, nountotemistic, adjective
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

totemism in Culture



The belief that people are descended from animals, plants, and other natural objects. Symbols (see also symbol) of these natural ancestors, known as totems, are often associated with clans (groups of families tracing common descent). By representing desirable individual qualities (such as the swiftness of a deer) and helping to explain the mythical origin of the clan, totems reinforce clan identity and solidarity.

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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.