We're working on a new site. Click here to get a sneak preview.


noun hip·po·pot·a·mus \ˌhi-pə-ˈpä-tə-məs\

: a large African animal that has an extremely large head and mouth and short legs and that spends most of its time in water

plural hip·po·pot·a·mus·es or hip·po·pot·a·mi\-ˌmī, -(ˌ)mē\

Full Definition of HIPPOPOTAMUS

:  a very large herbivorous 4-toed chiefly aquatic artiodactyl mammal (Hippopotamus amphibius) of sub-Saharan Africa with an extremely large head and mouth, bare and very thick grayish skin, and short legs; also :  a smaller closely related mammal (Choeropsis liberiensis) of western Africa

Illustration of HIPPOPOTAMUS


Latin, from Greek hippopotamos, alteration of hippos potamios, literally, riverine horse
First Known Use: 1563

Other Mammals Terms

dormouse, dugong, gibbon, grimalkin, sable, stoat, ungulate, vole
HIPPOPOTAMI Defined for Kids


noun hip·po·pot·a·mus \ˌhi-pə-ˈpä-tə-məs\
plural hip·po·pot·a·mus·es or hip·po·pot·a·mi \-ˌmī\

Definition of HIPPOPOTAMUS for Kids

:  a large African animal with thick hairless brownish gray skin, a big head, and short legs that eats plants and spends most of its time in rivers

Word History of HIPPOPOTAMUS

The bulky African mammal that spends its daytime hours sunk up to its eyes in a river owes its English name to the ancient Greeks. The historian Herodotus called the animal, which he may have seen in Egypt, ho hippos ho potamios, the river horse. Later Greek writers reduced this description to hippopotamos (which looks as if it should mean horse river). Despite its name, the hippopotamus is more closely related to hogs than horses.


Next Word in the Dictionary: HipposiderosPrevious Word in the Dictionary: hippopotamicAll Words Near: hippopotamus
How to use a word that (literally) drives some people nuts.
Test your vocab with our fun, fast game
Ailurophobia, and 9 other unusual fears