totem was our Word of the Day on 06/07/2014. Hear the podcast!
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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
Each Healthyish tote came stuffed with some of our favorite products, from CAP Beauty's portable matcha sticks to Areaware's striking beeswax totem candles.
The Man in Black kept the scalp with him as a totem, but how the symbol got there was never explained.
The Cup was a magnet, a sacred totem and a source of joy.
D’Souza is an example of this dynamic at its most extreme, a pure tribal totem, and his pardon is expected to play well with Trump’s base in the conservative media.
Honeydews, indestructible totems of hotel breakfast buffets?
Mexico 68 oscillated, in its effects, between the modern and the folkloric, parabolas and papier-mache, pictograms and totems.
But few historic totems carried as much symbolic weight as the handheld decorative fan.
The same developer commissioned a totem comprising five penguins stacked atop one another, which will soon be installed at Youngstown State University.
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.
totem Has Roots in an Algonquian Language
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.
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
Seen and Heard
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