totem

[toh-tuhm]
noun
1.
a natural object or an animate being, as an animal or bird, assumed as the emblem of a clan, family, or group.
2.
an object or natural phenomenon with which a family or sib considers itself closely related.
3.
a representation of such an object serving as the distinctive mark of the clan or group.
4.
anything serving as a distinctive, often venerated, emblem or symbol.

Origin:
1750–60, Americanism; < Ojibwa ninto·te·m my totem, oto·te·man his totem (probably orig. my clan-village-mate, derivative of stem o·te·- dwell in or as a village; compare o·te·na village)

totemic [toh-tem-ik] , adjective
totemically, adverb
subtotem, noun
subtotemic, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
totem (ˈtəʊtəm)
 
n
1.  (in some societies, esp among North American Indians) an object, species of animal or plant, or natural phenomenon symbolizing a clan, family, etc, often having ritual associations
2.  a representation of such an object
 
[C18: from Ojibwa nintōtēm mark of my family]
 
totemic
 
adj
 
to'temically
 
adv

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Etymonline
Word Origin & History

totem
animal or natural object considered as the emblem of a family or clan, 1760, from Algonquian (probably Ojibwa) odoodeman "his sibling kin, his group or family," hence, "his family mark;" also attested in Fr. in 1609 in form aoutem among the Micmacs or other Indians of Nova Scotia. Totem pole is 1808,
in reference to west coast Canadian Indians.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Cultural Dictionary

totem definition


An animal, plant, or other object in nature that has a special relationship to a person, family, or clan and serves as a sign for that person or group.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

totem

see low man on the totem pole.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Example sentences
The short answer is: if you are low on the totem pole the boss has the power so
  you have to do what he/she wants.
If that was true then, the bottom line is on top of the totem pole now.
The other problem with these situations is there is little recourse for people
  low down the totem pole.
But development of computing comes much lower on the totem pole.
Idioms & Phrases
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