noun \(ə-)ˈpä-səm\

: a somewhat small white or gray animal that is usually active at night and that lives in North and South America and in Australia

plural opossums also opossum

Full Definition of OPOSSUM

:  any of a family (Didelphidae) of American marsupials that usually have a pointed snout and prehensile tail; especially :  a common omnivorous largely nocturnal mammal (Didelphis virginiana) of North America that has grayish to blackish fur with white on the cheeks and is an expert climber
:  any of several Australian phalangers

Illustration of OPOSSUM

Origin of OPOSSUM

earlier apossoun, opassom, Virginia Algonquian, from Algonquian *wa·p- white + *-aʔθemw- dog
First Known Use: 1610

Other Mammals Terms

dormouse, dugong, gibbon, grimalkin, sable, stoat, ungulate, vole

Rhymes with OPOSSUM


noun    (Concise Encyclopedia)

Common opossum (Didelphis marsupialis).—Robert J. Ellison—The National Audubon Society Collection/Photo Researchers

Any of about 66 species (family Didelphidae) of New World, mostly arboreal, nocturnal marsupials. Highly adaptable and prolific, opossums have changed little in millions of years. The North American species, the stout-bodied common, or Virginia, opossum (Didelphis marsupialis), grows to 40 in. (100 cm) long. It is largely white and has an opposable clawless toe on each hind foot; with its long, hairless, prehensile tail, it resembles a large rat. Up to 25 grublike, 0.07-oz (2-g) newborns compete for the 13 nipples in the pouch, where the survivors spend four or five weeks; they spend the following eight to nine weeks clinging to the mother's back. The common opossum may feign death (“play possum”) if surprised. It eats small animals, insects, and fruit, and sometimes domestic poultry and cultivated grain. See also possum.


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