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totem pole

a pole or post carved and painted with totemic figures, erected by Indians of the northwest coast of North America, especially in front of their houses.
a hierarchical system:
the bureaucratic totem pole.
Origin of totem pole
1875-80 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for totem pole
  • If that was true then, the bottom line is on top of the totem pole now.
  • The dedication and raising of a totem pole is accompanied by a great potlatch, a public feast often involving lavish gift giving.
  • 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.
  • One yard has a carved wooden totem pole and at certain times of year they erect a huge teepee as well.
  • Many carvings are made from a single piece of wood and fashioned into a totem pole decorated with interlocking figures.
  • She went from being top dog to pretty low on the totem pole.
  • She had three different doctors: the head doctor, the doctor in the middle, and then the lowest one on the totem pole.
  • If you're in a service capacity, you must be lower on the totem pole in terms of brains.
  • And he'll tell you, he was at the low end of the totem pole.
  • Subordinated debentures are another step down the totem pole.
British Dictionary definitions for totem pole

totem pole

a pole carved or painted with totemic figures set up by certain North American Indians, esp those of the NW Pacific coast, within a village as a tribal symbol or, sometimes, in memory of a dead person
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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totem pole in Culture

totem pole definition

Among some Native Americans, a pole on which totems are carved. The totem pole usually stands in front of a house or shelter.

Note: A totem pole is thought of figuratively as a symbol of a hierarchy: “Where does she stand on the totem pole?”
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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