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A ceremonial feast among certain Native American peoples of the northwest Pacific coast, as in celebration of a marriage or accession, at which the host distributes gifts according to each guest's rank or status. Between rival groups the potlatch could involve extravagant or competitive giving and destruction by the host of valued items as a display of superior wealth.

[Chinook Jargon, from Nootka p'achitl, to make a potlatch gift.]


1. (Anthropology & Ethnology) anthropol a competitive ceremonial activity among certain North American Indians, esp the Kwakiutl, involving a lavish distribution of gifts and the destruction of property to emphasize the wealth and status of the chief or clan
2. informal US and Canadian a wild party or revel
[C19: from Chinook, from Nootka patshatl a giving, present]


(ˈpɒt lætʃ)

1. (among American Indians of the N Pacific coast, esp. the Kwakiutl) a ceremonial festival at which the sponsor bestows gifts lavishly upon the guests and sometimes destroys unbestowed gifts, thereby gaining or increasing social prestige.
2. Pacific Northwest. a party or celebration.
[1835–45; < Chinook Jargon pátlač, páλač < Nootka]
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.potlatch - a ceremonial feast held by some Indians of the northwestern coast of North America (as in celebrating a marriage or a new accession) in which the host gives gifts to tribesmen and others to display his superior wealth (sometimes, formerly, to his own impoverishment)
fete, fiesta, feast - an elaborate party (often outdoors)
ceremonial, ceremonial occasion, ceremony, observance - a formal event performed on a special occasion; "a ceremony commemorating Pearl Harbor"
References in periodicals archive ?
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