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[pou-wou] /ˈpaʊˌwaʊ/
(among North American Indians) a ceremony, especially one accompanied by magic, feasting, and dancing, performed for the cure of disease, success in a hunt, etc.
a council or conference of or with Indians.
(among North American Indians) a priest or shaman.
Informal. any conference or meeting.
verb (used without object)
to hold a powwow.
Informal. to confer.
Origin of powwow
1615-25, Americanism; < Narragansett (E spelling) powwaw Indian priest (and the identical word in Massachusett) < Proto-Algonquian *pawe·wa he dreams (used as a derived agent noun meaning “he who dreams”, i.e., one who derives his power from visions) Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for powwow
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The powwow said that Benjamin Waite and another man was coming, and that storm was raised to cast them away.

    The American Indians Henry R. Schoolcraft
  • You and Moncourt and I must have a powwow as soon as possible.

    The Lightning Conductor Discovers America C. N. (Charles Norris) Williamson and A. M. (Alice Muriel) Williamson
  • There were several Indians in a powwow around the fire, there was a woman with a papoose on her back, and a few partly done.

    A Little Girl in Old Quebec Amanda Millie Douglas
  • When a powwow was to be held I always sent him to conduct it if I could not go myself.

    The Arm-Chair at the Inn F. Hopkinson Smith
  • The fire was resurrected, and they sat down to have a powwow.

  • What do you suppose the powwow of the teachers was all about?

  • No, I could see they wanted to get off alone and hold a powwow.

    The Quirt B.M. Bower
  • I guess it is, but that's an awful bad spot—that's right, Widow, powwow it.

  • That canoe coming forward there, with the white flag up, Filhiol insisted, means they want to powwow.

    Cursed George Allan England
British Dictionary definitions for powwow


a talk, conference, or meeting
a magical ceremony of certain North American Indians, usually accompanied by feasting and dancing
(among certain North American Indians) a medicine man
a meeting of or negotiation with North American Indians
(intransitive) to hold a powwow
Word Origin
C17: from Algonquian; related to Natick pauwau one who practises magic, Narraganset powwaw
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for powwow

1620s, "priest, sorcerer," from a southern New England Algonquian language (probably Narragansett) powwaw "shaman, medicine man, Indian priest," from a verb meaning "to use divination, to dream," from Proto-Algonquian *pawe:wa "he dreams, one who dreams." Meaning "magical ceremony among North American Indians" is recorded from 1660s. Sense of "council, conference, meeting" is first recorded 1812. Verb sense of "to confer, discuss" is attested from 1780.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for powwow



A meeting; discussion: The directors are having a crucial pow-wow

[1625+; ultimately fr an Algonquian word for ''medicine man,'' meaning ''he dreams,'' extended to mean counsel and a council]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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