• 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.

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Example Sentences

“The totem of the eagle represented loyalty and honesty.”

“Harriet Tubman is a powerful totem of the Underground Railroad.”

“Wolves, eagles, and bears are often used as totems because of their fierce reputations.”

Word Origin

Ojibwa, late 18th century

Why this word?

The Ojibwa North American Indigenous people use the word “doodem” for a natural object or animal that they treasure for its spiritual significance; the word was adopted into English as “totem.” Sometimes the word refers to a bond with a particular animal or natural object, but “totem” has evolved to refer to an emblem or any kind of personal symbolism. A totem is usually a natural object or animal that has great spiritual significance, but it can also serve as representative for a society or a concept.

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