Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. An animal, plant, or natural object serving among certain tribal or traditional peoples as the emblem of a clan or family and sometimes revered as its founder, ancestor, or guardian.
  • n. A representation of such an object.
  • n. A social group having a common affiliation to such an object.
  • n. A venerated emblem or symbol: "grew up with the totems and taboos typical of an Irish Catholic kid in Boston” ( Connie Paige).

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Any natural object or living creature that serves as an emblem of a tribe, clan or family.
  • n. The representation of such object or creature.
  • n. The clan whose kinship is defined in reference to such an object or creature.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A rude picture, as of a bird, beast, or the like, used by the North American Indians as a symbolic designation, as of a family or a clan; also, the object or animal itself, considered as an symbol of the family.
  • n. Anything which serves as a venerated or mystic symbol or emblem.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Among the Indians of North America, a natural object, usually an animal, assumed as the token or emblem of a clan or family, and a representation of which served as a cognizance for each member of it; hence, a more or less similar observance and usage among other uncivilized peoples. See totemism.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. emblem consisting of an object such as an animal or plant; serves as the symbol of a family or clan (especially among American Indians)
  • n. a clan or tribe identified by their kinship to a common totemic object

Etymologies

Ojibwa nindoodem, my totem.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
from Ojibwe (o)doodem(an) (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • I add that, granting for the sake of argument that these traces may point to totemism in the remote past, the mouse, though originally a totem, '_need not have been an Aryan totem_' (p. 116).

    Modern Mythology

  • Finally, in the theory that the clan totem is the natural development of the individual totem, the contention of some scholars that the term totem should be reserved to the clan totem is of little moment.

    The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 14: Simony-Tournon

  • Dr. Munro merely quotes this foolish use of the term totem by others.

    The Clyde Mystery a Study in Forgeries and Folklore

  • There is what I call the totem of the Wahahbees -- the people who translate religion into dispute or persecution.

    The Faith Doctor A Story of New York

  • Because when times get tough, or a sacred totem is threatened — such as access to the office of President — up the bile rises from those depths, an utterly “natural” reaction of course when you think about it.

    Miss Ashley and Her Chifferobe...Busted.

  • The word totem, from the Native American Ojibway language, was noted in the early 1770s ina North American traveler's report.

    Totem

  • Tarn read from his Selected Poems 1950-2000 on Saturday night, opening with Before the Snake which he describes as a totem poem describing the landscape in terms of Eden before the fall.

    Nathaniel Tarn

  • This, of course, is a Haida totem from the Queen Charlotte Islands.

    Endangered Spaces: The Future for Wilderness in Canada

  • Like the woolly rhinoceros, whose spirit he called his totem, Broud could be as stubborn as he could be unpredictably vicious.

    The Clan of the Cave Bear

  • Whereas President Felipe Calderon and his 350-pound finance minister Agustin Carstens once assured suspicious investors of 3\% growth in 2008, the lowest on the Latin American totem pole trailing even basket case countries like Honduras and Haiti, Merrill Lynch, itself a flattened former powerhouse just spun off to the Bank of America, has recalibrated that anemic forecast to a sickly 1. 9\% in light of the fall-out from the downturn in El Norte.

    CounterPunch

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