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totem

totem (tō´təm), an object, usually an animal or plant (or all animals or plants of that species), that is revered by members of a particular social group because of a mystical or ritual relationship that exists with that group. The totem—or rather, the spirit it embodies—represents the bond of unity within a tribe, a clan, or some similar group. Generally, the members of the group believe that they are descended from a totem ancestor, or that they and the totem are "brothers." The totem may be regarded as a group symbol and as a protector of the members of the group. In most cases the totemic animal or plant is the object of taboo: it may be forbidden to kill or eat the sacred animal. The symbol of the totem may be tattooed on the body, engraved on weapons, pictured in masks, or (among Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest) carved on totem poles. In some cultures males have one totem and females another, but, generally speaking, totemism is associated with clans or blood relatives. Marriage between members of the same totemic group is commonly prohibited.

See J. G. Frazer, Totemism and Exogamy (4 vol., 1910; repr. 1968); E. Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life (1915, repr. 1965); S. Freud, Totem and Taboo (1918, repr. 1960); A. Goldenweiser, History, Psychology, and Culture (1933); C. Lévi-Strauss, Totemism (tr. 1963).

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totem

to·tem / ˈtōtəm/ • n. a natural object or animal believed by a particular society to have spiritual significance and adopted by it as an emblem. DERIVATIVES: to·tem·ic / tōˈtemik/ adj. to·tem·ism / -ˌmizəm/ n. to·tem·ist / -mist/ n. to·tem·is·tic / ˌtōdəˈmistik/ adj.

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totem

totem 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. The word is recorded from the mid 18th century, and comes from Ojibwa nindoodem ‘my totem’.
totem pole a pole on which totems are hung or on which the images of totems are carved.

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totem

totem among Amer. Indians, hereditary badge of a tribe or group. XVIII. of Algonquian orig.

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totem

totemhansom, ransom, Ransome, transom •Wrexham • sensum • Epsom • jetsam •lissom • winsome • gypsum • alyssum •blossom, opossum, possum •flotsam • awesome • balsam • Folsom •noisome • twosome •fulsome • buxom • Hilversum •irksome • Gresham • meerschaum •petersham • nasturtium •atom, Euratom •factum •bantam, phantom •sanctum •desideratum, erratum, post-partum, stratum •substratum • rectum • momentum •septum •datum, petrolatum, pomatum, Tatum, ultimatum •arboretum • dictum • symptom •ad infinitum •bottom, rock-bottom •quantum •autumn, postmortem •factotum, Gotham, scrotum, teetotum, totem •sputum •accustom, custom •diatom • anthem • Bentham • Botham •fathom • rhythm • biorhythm •algorithm • logarithm • sempervivum •ovum • William

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