Definition of Kwakiutl in English:



  • 1A member of an American Indian people of the NW Pacific coast, living mainly on Vancouver Island.

    • ‘The Kwakiutl of the Pacific Northwest believed that their nation descended from four wolves that survived a great flood, before shedding their skins to become human.’
    • ‘The Kwakiutl gave it another, opposing and peripheral meaning.’
    • ‘Perhaps the most familiar example of a gift culture is that of the native Americans of the Pacific Northwest such as the Kwakiutl and their famous potlatch ceremonies.’
    • ‘The next time I accidentally get stuck in Lincoln Center sitting through all 18 hours of Wagner's Ring Cycle, I could thank my studies of the Kwakiutl for making it seem pleasant by comparison.’
    • ‘It was in 1930, when Boas was 70 years old, that he returned to the site of his earlier studies among the Kwakiutl with a motion picture camera and wax cylinder sound recording machine.’
  • 2mass noun The Wakashan language of the Kwakiutl, now with few speakers.


  • Relating to the Kwakiutl or their language.

    • ‘Among the Kwakiutl Indians of the Pacific Northwest, chiefs sought higher status by sponsoring ‘potlatches,’ feasts in which they gave away or even destroyed food, blankets, canoes, and other precious possessions.’
    • ‘These are the Kwakiutl totem-pole colors that I grew up with.’
    • ‘In the last chapter we saw anthropologist James Clifford's description of how various museums in the Canadian northwest provide different interpretations and assessments of Kwakiutl art through their displays.’
    • ‘Many cultures - the Kwakiutl Indians, Heiltsuk, and Bellacoola, among others - mark each stage of life with a new identity, a new name, and new relationships to the clan.’
    • ‘To that end, Mauss studied the Kwakiutl culture of British Columbia, whose chiefs used to brag to other chiefs, that they could give away more nice things than anyone else.’


The name in Kwakiutl.