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
The lobby is filled with totems and artwork as well as a colorful mural that rings the walls and depicts Hawaii’s history.
Social media has created a thousand points of autonomy, and the old totems are no longer necessary or welcome.
Indeed, nearly every frame of Spielberg's film, which opened Thursday, is densely packed with nostalgia-triggering totems from films, TV shows, games and toys, mainly from the 1980s, but also from earlier and later eras.
Spielberg, of course, is one of the authors of many of the nostalgic totems that appear in Ready Player One, but his choice to create a film about nostalgia only pays off slightly here.
The goods & materials: Abstract pieces, ranging from wall art, sculpture and totems.
There were handwritten notes from friends and strange tirades from far away, strings of beads, and bizarre totems of mysterious significance.
A bird vertebrae necklace was one of her signatures — a totem of life and death, Cohen said.
Peter travels the resort looking for those magical plot totems who will deliver the key piece of advice to help him get over the mean girl and become self-actualized.
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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