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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. 2016.
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Examples from the Web for totem-pole
Historical Examples
  • I've got one decayed foreign title dangling to the totem-pole, and that's enough; that's got to satisfy the missus.

    Making Money Owen Johnson
  • A totem-pole donated to the exposition by Yannate, a very old Thlinkit, was made by his own hands in honor of his mother.

    Alaska Ella Higginson
  • It is the totem-pole, the Indian child will tell you with pride.

    Little Folks of North America Mary Hazelton Wade
  • The idea of a totem-pole is something like a door-plate or a visiting card.

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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