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 Only the Native American totem pole at right is not either a strict frontal or side view. Washington Post, "This 1968 David Hockney painting suggests complex social relationships, partly by leaving them out," 7 Oct. 2020 Dillon Tatum of West Bloomfield High School in Michigan gave high praise to the Buckeyes for being at the top of the totem pole in the Big Ten once again. Robert Fenbers, cleveland, "Ohio State football is separating itself from the rest of the Big Ten, and recruits are taking notice: Buckeyes recruiting," 23 Nov. 2020 At the very top of the totem pole is the battalion commander, followed by his right-hand man, the battalion executive officer. Washington Post, "As schools everywhere go virtual, a military academy in rural Virginia opens in person. Will it work?," 29 Aug. 2020 At Totem Pole Park, gaze up at the largest totem pole outside of Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. Anne Olivia Bauso, Travel + Leisure, "The Ultimate Route 66 Road Trip Guide," 22 Aug. 2020 In terms of cash flow, however, joint replacements are decidedly not at the bottom of the totem pole. Fortune, "COVID-postponed joint replacements are costing U.S. health systems around $2 billion monthly," 6 Aug. 2020 Today, the 27-year-old sits atop the TikTok totem pole with nearly 40 million followers, his videos having amassed nearly 1 billion likes. Washington Post, "For TikTok stars, Trump’s banning of the app would be devastating: It’s ‘given me my entire life’," 4 Aug. 2020 Black women have always been treated to be beneath society, and the lowest on the totem pole, and the hardest working but least important people under the sun. Marcus Jones,, "Real Housewives of Potomac star Gizelle Bryant explains why the show is a must-watch," 2 Aug. 2020 Borrow a hotel bike to explore Beacon Hill Park and pedal past what was once the world's tallest totem pole. Jayme Moye, Condé Nast Traveler, "A Vancouver Island Road Trip of Crisp Wines and Gigantic Trees," 14 May 2020

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.

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First Known Use of totem pole

1880, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Time Traveler for totem pole

Time Traveler

The first known use of totem pole was in 1880

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Statistics for totem pole

Last Updated

30 Dec 2020

Cite this Entry

“Totem pole.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for totem pole

totem pole


English Language Learners Definition of totem pole

: a tall usually wooden pole that is carved and painted with symbols, figures, or masks which represent different Native American tribes
US, informal used to describe someone's position or level in a company or organization

totem pole


Kids Definition of totem pole

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

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