Definition of totem
1a : an object (such as an animal or plant) serving as the emblem of a family or clan and often as a reminder of its ancestry; also : a usually carved or painted representation of such an objectb : a family or clan identified by a common totemic object
2 : one that serves as an emblem or revered symbol
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Examples of totem in a Sentence
Private jets are a totem of success among extremely wealthy people.
the bald eagle, that universally recognized totem of our country
Recent Examples of totem from the Web
These plastic totems are part of the city’s multimillion-dollar campaign to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions and reliance on landfills, and to turn food scraps and yard waste into compost and, soon, clean energy.
McCabe is keeper of the Tantu totem (the spirit), which gives her the powers of animals like an elephant, falcon, dolphin, spider, etc.
Now, in honor of the Huna Tlingit's connection to the area, two gigantic totem poles—each weighing 2,000 pounds and rising 20 feet tall—have been erected in Bartlett Cove.
Now, in honor of the Huna Tlingit's connection to the area, two gigantic totem poles—
All the other pieces are wood — chunky disks for the rocks, thin disks for the totems, and rectangles (long and short) for the hammers.
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'totem'. Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.
Did You Know?
Totem comes to us from Ojibwa, an Algonquian language spoken by an American Indian people from the regions around Lake Superior. The most basic form of the word in Ojibwa is believed to be "ote," but 18th-century English speakers encountered it as "ototeman" ("his totem"), which became our word totem. In its most specific sense, "totem" refers to to an emblematic depiction of something (such as an animal, plant, or supernatural being) gives a family or tribe its name and that often serves as a reminder of its ancestry. The term is also used broadly for any thing or person having particular emblematic or symbolic importance. The related adjective "totemic" describes something that serves as a totem, that depicts totems ("totemic basketry," for example), or that has the nature of a totem.
Origin and Etymology of totem
Ojibwa oto·te·man his totem
First Known Use: circa 1776
TOTEM Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of totem for English Language Learners
: something (such as an animal or plant) that is the symbol for a family, tribe, etc., especially among Native Americans
: a usually carved or painted figure that represents such a symbol
: a person or thing that represents an idea
TOTEM Defined for Kids
Definition of totem for Students
1 : an object (as an animal or plant) serving as the emblem of a family or clan
2 : a carving or picture representing such an object
Seen and Heard
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