Part of speech: noun
Origin: Ojibwa, late 18th century
A natural object or animal that is believed by a particular society to have spiritual significance and that is adopted by it as an emblem.
A person or thing regarded as being symbolic or representative of a particular quality or concept.
Examples of Totem in a sentence
"Wolves, eagles, and bears are often used as totems because of their fierce reputations."
"Harriet Tubman was a powerful totem for the Underground Railroad."
Popularity Over Time
A totem is usually a natural object or animal that has great spiritual significance. A totem might serve as an emblem for a whole society, or an individual person might adopt a totem. Totemism is a practice born in the North American indigenous populations.
Did you Know?
The Ojibwa, also known as Chippewa, are one of the largest populations of indigenous North American people. In the Ojibwa language, "nindoodem" means "my totem." It was used to refer to a bond with a particular animal or natural object, but the term has been adopted to refer to any kind of personal symbolism.