[ toh-tuh-miz-uh m ]
/ ˈtoʊ təˌmɪz əm /


the practice of having totems.
the system of tribal division according to totems.

Origin of totemism

An Americanism dating back to 1785–95; totem + -ism


to·tem·is·tic, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for totemism

British Dictionary definitions for totemism

/ (ˈtəʊtəˌmɪzəm) /


the belief in kinship of groups or individuals having a common totem
the rituals, taboos, and other practices associated with such a belief

Derived forms of totemism

totemist, 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

Culture definitions for totemism

[ (toh-tuh-miz-uhm) ]

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.

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.