totem

[toh-tuh m]
See more synonyms for totem on Thesaurus.com
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 with which a family or sib considers itself closely related.
  3. a representation of such an object serving as the distinctive mark of the clan or group.
  4. 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 formsto·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. 2018

Related Words for totems

emblem, representation, token, symbol, figure

Examples from the Web for totems

Contemporary Examples of totems

Historical Examples of totems

  • Had they held their corn feast—or can you say anything of the totems of the tribe?

    The Last of the Mohicans

    James Fenimore Cooper

  • "These men have their totems and their sign manuals," said the commissioner.

    Jack O' Judgment

    Edgar Wallace

  • Had they held their corn-feast—or can you say anything of the totems of the tribe?

    The Last of the Mohicans

    James Fenimore Cooper

  • Totems, in their developed form, are revered, but rarely if ever worshiped.

  • Here in the drawing are some Totems seen daily in our towns.

    Woodland Tales

    Ernest Seton-Thompson


British Dictionary definitions for totems

totem

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
Derived Formstotemic (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

Word Origin and History for totems

totem

n.

animal or natural object considered as the emblem of a family or clan, 1760, from Algonquian (probably Ojibwa) odoodeman "his sibling kin, his group or family," hence, "his family mark;" also attested in French c.1600 in form aoutem among the Micmacs or other Indians of Nova Scotia. Totem pole is 1808, in reference to west coast Canadian Indians.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

totems in Culture

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 totems

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.