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 This was the potlatch around 1900, after the Kwakwaka’wakw had been decimated by disease and were living in a new economy. Eula Biss, The New Yorker, 30 Aug. 2020 During his years as governor, Walker said, Natives welcomed him into their homes, their whaling ceremonies, their potlatches and other important family events. Alex Demarban, Anchorage Daily News, 19 Oct. 2019 The tale of Gaagiixiid is a cultural touchstone, a story of sin and redemption, traditionally performed at winter potlatch ceremonies, in which the Haida share songs, dances, and gifts. Julian Brave Noisecat, The New Yorker, 14 Nov. 2019 In the indigenous Kwakwaka’wakw settlement in Alert Bay, British Columbia, Marcus Alfred, a sculptor and the youngest chief in his tribe’s history, carves masks and other sculptures and purchases food and gifts in preparation for a potlatch. BostonGlobe.com, 24 Oct. 2019 Active retired at the end of March, and the station held a potlatch in his honor. Washington Post, 4 June 2018 Uncle Bobby knew the family needed his help during the four days of the potlatch for Grandma Elizabeth. Anchorage Daily News, 10 Mar. 2018 Without receiving approval from the opposite moiety at a memorial potlatch, the replica hat remains just that. Meilan Solly, Smithsonian, 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, 17 June 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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Cite this Entry

“Potlatch.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/potlatch. Accessed 12 Jun. 2021.

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More from Merriam-Webster on potlatch

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about potlatch


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