pot·​latch | \ ˈpät-ˌlach How to pronounce potlatch (audio) \

Definition of potlatch

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a ceremonial feast of the American Indians of the northwest coast marked by the host's lavish distribution of gifts or sometimes destruction of property to demonstrate wealth and generosity with the expectation of eventual reciprocation
2 Northwest : a social event or celebration


potlatched; potlatching; potlatches

Definition of potlatch (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to give (something, such as a gift) especially with the expectation of a gift in return
2 : to hold or give a potlatch for (a tribe, a group, etc.)

intransitive verb

: to hold or give a potlatch

Examples of potlatch in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Active retired at the end of March, and the station held a potlatch in his honor. Washington Post, "Alaska broadcaster known for Yup’ik stories dies," 4 June 2018 Uncle Bobby knew the family needed his help during the four days of the potlatch for Grandma Elizabeth. Anchorage Daily News, "He died homeless in a tent, but in Shageluk, he belonged," 10 Mar. 2018 Without receiving approval from the opposite moiety at a memorial potlatch, the replica hat remains just that. Meilan Solly, Smithsonian, "This Replica of a Tlingit Killer Whale Hat Is Spurring Dialogue About Digitization," 11 Sep. 2017 The last traditional potlatch held in Anchorage was at a fish camp near Cairn Point, just north of the Port of Anchorage. Alaska Dispatch News, "How your power use is destroying Eklutna River salmon, and how to fix that," 17 June 2017 Sept. 2-3: Witness native canoes arriving in Blaine and experience an authentic potlatch celebration. Blaine And Birch Bay, The Seattle Times, "10 ways to feel like a kid again on your summer getaway," 3 Aug. 2017 In 1884, the Canadian government outlawed potlatches, the public ceremonies that formed the basis of the Haida legal and political system. Photographs And Text By Catherine Porter, New York Times, "Where Totem Poles Are a Living Art (and Relics Rest in Peace)," 30 Apr. 2017 Because totem poles were intricately tied to potlatches, the ban essentially spelled the end of poles. Photographs And Text By Catherine Porter, New York Times, "Where Totem Poles Are a Living Art (and Relics Rest in Peace)," 30 Apr. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'potlatch.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of potlatch


circa 1858, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1898, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for potlatch


Chinook Jargon patlač, from Nootka p̓aƛp̓ač

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The first known use of potlatch was circa 1858

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What made you want to look up potlatch? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a period when something is suspended

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