Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun 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.
  • noun A representation of such an object.
  • noun A social group having a common affiliation to such an object.
  • noun A venerated emblem or symbol.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun 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 the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun 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.
  • noun Anything which serves as a venerated or mystic symbol or emblem.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

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

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

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

Etymologies

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

[Ojibwa nindoodem, my totem.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

from Ojibwe (o)doodem(an)

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.

    Archive 2008-10-01

  • 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.

  • 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.

    Archive 2005-04-01

  • 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

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

    Totem

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

    Endangered Spaces: The Future for Wilderness in Canada

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