Definition of totem in English:


Syllabification: to·tem
Pronunciation: /ˈtōdəm


A natural object or animal believed by a particular society to have spiritual significance and adopted by it as an emblem.
More example sentences
  • The meat of one's clan totem was traditionally avoided; even today animals representing totems are rarely eaten.
  • They make these animals their totems and are not allowed to hunt, eat, or even be around them.
  • Premodern societies often had animal totems, and they saw animals and humans as intertwined through reincarnation.


mid 18th century: from Ojibwa nindoodem 'my totem'.



Pronunciation: /tōˈtemik/
More example sentences
  • Others are totemic, involving plants or animals that are symbolic of kin groups.
  • The consubstantial kindreds known as totemic groups include both human and non-human kin.
  • Among these patterns are those that cross-cut human and other species, creating the consubstantial kindreds known as totemic groups.


Pronunciation: /-ˌmizəm/
More example sentences
  • I can begin to engage with this metaphysics most efficiently through a consideration of Australian Aboriginal totemism.
  • This destabilises the popular notion that the Aboriginal relation to place through totemism and myth is timeless, and it is probably the case that a historicised Aboriginality is harder to negotiate through the land claim process.
  • The last word, proclaiming the totemism of things that are ‘good to eat,’ is uttered in a cadence of triumph.


More example sentences
  • Granted, totemism and therianthropy weave very closely in my life, and there may be some connection there, but I don't think I am a totemist solely because I am a therian.
  • Of course, it must have been impossible for Durkheim to consider that maybe peoples like his totemists might have experienced the world as inherently sacred.
  • Werecreatures, totemists and a few others have multiple natural shapes.


Pronunciation: /ˌtōdəˈmistik/
More example sentences
  • Drummer Joshua Delpech-Ramey tries to explain it: ‘Hot core means, to me, these four things: apocalyptic pop, brain rap, totemistic love rock and animalistic dance music.’
  • True to Lacanian theory, the penis is not just a corporeal implement of sexual pleasure, but a totemistic phallus representing authority negotiated via speech.
  • But most of the film could have been made by almost anyone, even though I doubt anyone else would have made so much of the connection Alexander has with a hawk - Stone loves his totemistic avatars.

Definition of totem in:

Get more from Oxford Dictionaries

Subscribe to remove adverts and access premium resources

Word of the day oleaginous
Pronunciation: ˌəʊlɪˈadʒɪnəs
rich in, covered with, or producing oil; oily