Home > T Words > totemism


Definition of Totemism

(noun) A kinship system based on people sharing a common totem which is a real or mythical ancestor, creature, or object that serves as a symbol for a group.

Totemism Scholars

Totemism is often discussed in sociology and anthropology and is still lively debated.

Totemism Pronunciation

Pronunciation Usage Guide

Syllabification: to·tem·ism

Audio Pronunciation

– American English
– British English

Phonetic Spelling

  • American English – /tOH-tuh-miz-uhm/
  • British English – /tOH-tuh-mi-zuhm/

International Phonetic Alphabet

  • American English – /ˈtoʊdəˌmɪz(ə)m/
  • British English – /ˈtəʊtəmɪz(ə)m/

Usage Notes

  • Totem is derived from the Ojibwe word odoodem “his kinship group” and the tribe builds totem poles which are representative sculptures made from trees.
  • A totem is both sacred and taboo.
  • Totemism is compared to animism.
  • Also called totemic religion.
  • A (noun) totemist or (noun) totemite constructs (adjective) totemic or (adjective) totemistic sculptures.

Additional Information

Related Terms

Works Consulted

Delaney, Tim, and Tim Madigan. 2015. The Sociology of Sports: An Introduction. 2nd ed. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.

Encyclopædia Britannica. (N.d.) Britannica Digital Learning. (https://britannicalearn.com/).

Griffiths, Heather, Nathan Keirns, Eric Strayer, Susan Cody-Rydzewski, Gail Scaramuzzo, Tommy Sadler, Sally Vyain, Jeff Bry, Faye Jones. 2016. Introduction to Sociology 2e. Houston, TX: OpenStax.

Hughes, Michael, and Carolyn J. Kroehler. 2011. Sociology: The Core. 10th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Macmillan. (N.d.) Macmillan Dictionary. (https://www.macmillandictionary.com/).

Marsh, Ian, and Mike Keating, eds. 2006. Sociology: Making Sense of Society. 3rd ed. Harlow, England: Pearson Education.

Stewart, Paul, and Johan Zaaiman, eds. 2015. Sociology: A Concise South African Introduction. Cape Town: Juta.

Taylor & Francis. (N.d.) Routledge Handbooks Online. (https://www.routledgehandbooks.com/).

Wiley. (N.d.) Wiley Online Library. (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/).

Cite the Definition of Totemism

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “totemism.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved June 5, 2023 (https://sociologydictionary.org/totemism/).

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

totemism. (2013). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/totemism/

Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “totemism.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed June 5, 2023. https://sociologydictionary.org/totemism/.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“totemism.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 5 Jun. 2023. <https://sociologydictionary.org/totemism/>.