Definition of manitou in English:



  • (among some North American Indian peoples) a good or evil spirit as an object of reverence.

    ‘the tribal shaman was responsible for calling upon the manitou at special ceremonies’
    • ‘Illinois men and women interacted with the supreme deity by way of personal spirits called manitous.’
    • ‘During this time the manitou or spirits were considered a strong spiritual presence in her life.’
    • ‘Bear representations are evident, and several fragments appear to represent Mishipishu, the principal manitou of the Algonquian underworld.’
    • ‘Most likely, given the powerful nature of such a manitou, appropriate ceremonies would have been conducted by someone with specialized powers.’
    • ‘While I didn't share a belief in the manitous, I could still be awestruck by the power around me.’
    • ‘First, single or multiple lines transverse to the body can denote a spirit or manitou, based on both Hoffman's discussion of Mide scrolls and the statements of Rajnovich's informant Mrs. Seymour.’
    • ‘All healing magic is about bringing into focus the innate clarity of the healthy manitou intended for that person, that space.’
    • ‘For Native peoples the earth was special, the dwelling place of manitous and spirits and the repository of the bones of generations of ancestors.’
    • ‘Personal insight is gained from all the manitous met during a vision quest.’
    • ‘Shamans were considered to be closer to manitous than ordinary people and could gain power from them either to heal or to kill.’
    • ‘You and your people have forgotten the manitous, you have forgotten to respect the very things that give your people life.’
    • ‘As guardians of the wards over which they were appointed, the manitous could withhold from hunters permission or opportunity to kill.’
    • ‘But there are two unhelpful, unfriendly kinds of manitous.’
    • ‘For northeastern tribes immersed in relationships of obligation and mutual reliance among kin as well as with the manitous, or spiritual beings, that inhabited the natural world around them, a stance of neediness and even powerlessness had a very different significance than in societies like the United States that stressed social and economic independence.’


Late 17th century via French from an Algonquian language.