totem ˈtō-təm noun
1. emblem consisting of an object such as an animal or plant; serves as the symbol of a family or clan (especially among American Indians)
2. something that stands as an emblem or an honored symbol
3. a clan or family identified by their kinship to a common totemic object
The word totem has appeared in 54 articles on NYTimes.com in the past year, including on Jan. 26 in “Japan’s Skateboarders Roll, Warily, Out of the Shadows” by John Branch:
Over the decades, like so many other anti-authority movements, skateboarding leaked into the mainstream. Skateboards — a mode of transportation, an instrument of art, a totem of defiance — now glide across American sidewalks, plazas and streets. These days, skateboarding style, fashion and culture have morphed into beacons for masses looking for calculated rebelliousness.