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Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English
totem pole
▪ The wolf has always been a totem animal for the Nez Perce.
▪ The actors impersonate the totem animal, thus identifying and promoting a resonant connection with it.
▪ The totem pole was created by two local carvers.
▪ When this dominant fish dies or is removed, his place is taken by the next man on the totem pole.
▪ Not a climber of corporate totem poles.
▪ Here I was, the last guy on the totem pole.
low man on the totem pole
▪ And we were travelling again, through ravine, under totem.
▪ And your totems have the same names as my masks, but I made those names up!
▪ He looked at the stains on his hands, then at the murder beside the totem.
▪ She touched this totem carefully, gaining confidence as it quivered and tautened.
▪ The hooded serpent was their totem.
▪ There is only one thing I can tell you of these totems.
▪ Tribesmen select totem creatures as a bridge between the separate worlds of spirit and dreams.
▪ When this dominant fish dies or is removed, his place is taken by the next man on the totem pole.
The Collaborative International Dictionary

Totem \To"tem\, n. [Massachusetts Indian wutohtimoin that to which a person or place belongs.]

  1. A rude picture, as of a bird, beast, or the like, used by the North American Indians as a symbolic designation, as of a family or a clan; also, the object or animal itself, considered as an symbol of the family.

    And they painted on the grave posts Of the graves, yet unforgotten, Each his own ancestral totem Each the symbol of his household; Figures of the bear and reindeer, Of the turtle, crane, and beaver.

    The totem, the clan deity, the beast or bird who in some supernatural way attends to the clan and watches over it.

  2. Anything which serves as a venerated or mystic symbol or emblem.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

animal or natural object considered as the emblem of a family or clan, 1760, from Algonquian (probably Ojibwa) -doodem, in 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.


n. 1 Any natural object or living creature that serves as an emblem of a tribe, clan or family. 2 The representation of such object or creature. 3 The clan whose kinship is defined in reference to such an object or creature.

  1. n. a clan identified by their kinship to a common totemic object

  2. emblem consisting of an object such as an animal or plant; serves as the symbol of a family or clan (especially among American Indians)


A totem ( Ojibwe dodaem) is a spirit being, sacred object, or symbol that serves as an emblem of a group of people, such as a family, clan, lineage, or tribe.

While the term "totem" is Ojibwe, belief in tutelary spirits and deities is not limited to indigenous peoples of the Americas but common to a number of cultures worldwide, such as Africa, Arabia, Asia, Australia, Europe, and the Arctic. However, the traditional people of those cultures have words for their guardian spirits in their own languages, and do not call these spirits or symbols, "totems".

Contemporary neoshamanic, New Age and mythopoetic men's movements not otherwise involved in the practice of a tribal religion may misappropriate and use "totem" terminology for the personal identification with a tutelary spirit or guide.

Totem (disambiguation)

A totem is a symbol or a spirit that represents and watches over a group of people.

Totem may also refer to:


Tótem was an Uruguayan Rock band formed in the early 1970s. One of the most important massive phenomena of Uruguayan music and represented the height of the Candombe beat.

Totem (Nazxul album)

Totem is the debut album by the Australian black metal band Nazxul. It was released in 1995.

Totem (Zazie album)

Totem is a 2007 album recorded by French pop singer Zazie. It was her sixth studio album, and her ninth album overall. It was released first digitally on 5 February 2007, then as a CD one week later. The album achieved success in francophone countries.

Totem (Paluzzi)

Totem, is a public artwork by American- Spanish artist Rinaldo Paluzzi, located on the grounds of White River State Park, which is in Indianapolis, Indiana, United States. The sculpture is made of stainless steel and is a triangular shaped vertical "tube" with triangular and trapezoidal cut-outs in the steel. The piece sits centered atop a concrete circle, 40 feet in diameter, with a sundial face. The piece was constructed in 1982 and dedicated November 9, 1982. It is copyrighted 1983.

Totem (Cirque du Soleil)

Totem is a touring show by Cirque du Soleil that premiered in Montréal on April 22, 2010. It was written and directed by previous collaborator Robert Lepage (). Cirque du Soleil describes Totem's theme as the evolution of humanity from its primordial, amphibian state toward the aspiration of flight, taking inspiration from many of humanity's founding myths. The show was awarded the 2013 New York Drama Desk Award for Unique Theatrical Experience.

All of Cirque du Soleil's previous touring productions were originally created to be performed inside large, custom-designed tents (called the grand chapiteau), but many of those shows have since been re-staged in arenas and other venues after the conclusion of their "big top" tour. Totem's creation team faced the challenge of designing a show that could be adapted for arenas and other venues from the outset.

Usage examples of "totem".

Her daughter was well protected and it meant the man she mated could not have a weak totem.

Straw dummies of Brienne and Lamoignon were burned night after night, and on the Pont Neuf anyone not bowing to that popular totem, the statue of Henri IV, was manhandled.

Rugged and shawled into a quadrel with a knob on top, she resembled some primitive totem and appeared to be perfectly immovable.

An elaborate series of colored patterns was carved and painted on the flat, and around the pit and standing on both sides of the riverlets were wooden statues carved with even more hideous shapes, one atop the other, creating totem poles over ten meters high and topped by the bird faces in the stone sculptures.

Some of the Summers had challenged her right to run because she wore no totem or proof that she was even a Summer.

Should Tenas grow to youth, manhood, old age, and have no Totem Pole to point to as a credential of being the honorable son of a long line of honorable sons?

I saw were not flying grey geese, that make such fat eating, but around the foot of our Totem Pole I saw flocks and flocks of little tenas Totem Poles, hundreds of them.

Possibly the Twonks regard some Dayside animal as a sort of fertility totem.

Similarly, to take a few more examples, in a ceremony of the witchetty grub totem of the Arunta tribe the body of the actor was decorated with lines of white and red down, and he had a shield adorned with a number of concentric circles of down.

In another ceremony of the witchetty grub totem, which followed immediately the one I have just described, the actor had two shields beside him.

In acting thus he was supposed to represent a celebrated ancestor of the witchetty grub totem.

The tip touched my throat right above the silver wolf's-head totem I wear and drew a single drop of blood.

On receiving the bone, the man at once smashes it, hastily buries it in a small pit beside the totemic emblem of the departed, and closes the opening with a large flat stone, signifying thereby that the season of mourning is over and that the dead man or woman has been gathered to his or her totem.

Carved pillars made of whole tree trunks stood in three rings inside, and two huge freestanding gateposts like Abstract Expressionist totem poles marked the southeastern door.

Above the roofs of the native houses and straight between the totems of the Thunder-bird and the Bear, rose the black smoke of the Potlatch fire.