totem pole


Definition of totem pole

1 : a pole or pillar carved and painted with a series of totemic symbols representing family lineage and often mythical or historical incidents and erected by Indian tribes of the northwest coast of North America
2 : an order of rank : hierarchy

Illustration of totem pole

Illustration of totem pole

totem pole 1

Examples of totem pole in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Out front stands a totem pole carved all the way around with figures from all three Southeast Alaska Indigenous groups, the only one of its kind in Alaska. Zachariah Hughes, Anchorage Daily News, 11 June 2022 The mall featured contemporary sculptures and a 22-foot-tall wood-and-steel totem pole that became a community meeting spot, like the fountain in the title of Ms. Lange’s book. Alex Beam, WSJ, 10 June 2022 Both Doug James and brother Jewell James, the head carver of the House of Tears, will travel with the totem pole from city to city across the Pacific Northwest, calling on lawmakers to breach the dams. Julia Lerner, oregonlive, 11 May 2022 More than a dozen massive totems have crossed the United States over the last two decades, including a 24-foot totem pole that left Bellingham last summer. Julia Lerner, oregonlive, 11 May 2022 For years, BlackBerry was top of the totem pole for personal technology, indispensable to politicians, celebrities and professionals alike. Washington Post, 3 Jan. 2022 The only answer is a sense of mission to benefit every songwriter, from superstars like Taylor Swift and Drake to those at the proverbial bottom of that totem pole. Jem Aswad, Variety, 27 Oct. 2021 The cactus garden was another treat, showcasing the striking and unexpected variety in a desert landscape, from totem pole cactus, creeping devil, prickly pear, and of course, the king of the desert, the saguaro. Susan Glaser, cleveland, 24 Mar. 2022 But sound might be last on the totem pole, so people now, in the last two years, listen with their eyes. Mark Elibert, Billboard, 14 Feb. 2022 See More

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

First Known Use of totem pole

1880, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Learn More About totem pole

Time Traveler for totem pole

Time Traveler

The first known use of totem pole was in 1880

See more words from the same year

Dictionary Entries Near totem pole


totem pole

to term

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for totem pole

Last Updated

22 Jun 2022

Cite this Entry

“Totem pole.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Jun. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for totem pole

totem pole


Kids Definition of totem pole

: a usually wooden pole or pillar carved and painted with totems and set up by tribes of indigenous people of the northwest coast of North America

More from Merriam-Webster on totem pole Encyclopedia article about totem pole


Test Your Vocabulary

Which Word Does Not Belong?

  • one green toy robot amidst many red toy robots
  • Which of these words does not mean "nonsense"?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!