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Alternative forms[edit]

  • pau wau
  • almost all capitalization, punctuation, and spacing variants are attested, such as pow wow, Pow-Wow, etc.
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From an Eastern Algonquian language, probably Massachusett pauwau (he uses divination; he practices magic or sorcery) or Narragansett powwáw (sorcerer, shaman), from Proto-Algonquian *pawe·wa (one who dreams).


powwow (plural powwows)

  1. A ritual conducted by a Native American shaman.
  2. A Native American shaman. [from 17th c.]
  3. A Native American council or meeting.
  4. (informal) A short, private conference. [from 19th c.]
    • 1913, Joseph C. Lincoln, chapter 12, in Mr. Pratt's Patients:
      While the powwow was going on the big woman came back again. She was consider'ble rumpled and scratched up, but there was fire in her eye.
  5. (Canada, US) A large gathering during which Indigenous songs and dances are showcased for an audience, essentially a recital or concert. Often also doubles as a fundraiser, or can be held in conjunction with a non-indigneous fair or exhibition in order to attract a large crowd, as at the Calgary Stampede and K-Days.



powwow (third-person singular simple present powwows, present participle powwowing, simple past and past participle powwowed)

  1. (intransitive, of Native Americans) To hold a meeting; to gather together in council.
    • 2005, Glen Tucker, Tecumseh: A Vision of Glory, page 224:
      [The] Indians saw everything that happened and powwowed all night, needing more than anything else the presence of Tecumseh. The most aggressive element was the Winnebagos, who insisted on attacking.
  2. (intransitive, of Native Americans and by extension other groups, such as the Pennsylvania Dutch) To conduct a ritual in which magic is used.
    • 2007, David W. Kriebel, Powwowing Among the Pennsylvania Dutch, page 10:
      Maybe no one— except possibly Leah— powwowed anymore.
  3. (informal, intransitive) To hold a private conference.