hip·​po·​pot·​a·​mus | \ˌhi-pə-ˈpä-tə-məs \
plural hippopotamuses or hippopotami\ˌhi-​pə-​ˈpä-​tə-​ˌmī, -​(ˌ)mē \

Definition of hippopotamus 

: any of a family (Hippopotamidae) of very large, four-toed, chiefly aquatic, herbivorous artiodactyl mammals having a very large head and mouth, nearly hairless thick grayish skin, long lower canine teeth, and relatively short legs, and including two living species:

a : one (Hippopotamus amphibius) of sub-Saharan Africa that has webbing between the toes, spends most of the day in or near water, and typically weighs between 3 to 4 tons (2700 to 3600 kilograms)

b : pygmy hippopotamus

Illustration of hippopotamus

Illustration of hippopotamus

Examples of hippopotamus in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Most of them took jewelry and other personal adornments to their graves: strands of ostrich eggshell or vibrantly colored stone beads, hippopotamus ivory rings or bangles, or headpieces made from latticed arrangements of animal teeth. Kiona N. Smith, Ars Technica, "Archaeologists explore East Africa’s ancient monumental cemeteries," 21 Aug. 2018 Carved ivory upper and lower dentures (18th century) The first dentures were made of hippopotamus ivory, which was thought to be more durable. Roslyn Sulcas, New York Times, "This Exhibition Has Real Bite," 7 June 2018 For example, more than 40 hippopotamuses roam free in Colombia, stemming from a handful that wandered away from his private zoo. Steve Mirsky, Scientific American, "A Look at the Inner Lives of 13 Species of Animals You Think You Know," 13 July 2018 ArtWorks and Fiona's home, the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, will produce a mural this summer to honor the premature Nile hippopotamus that beat the odds. The Enquirer, Cincinnati.com, "Vote today: Help pick the design of ArtWorks' Fiona mural," 10 May 2018 First, while hippopotamuses are not endangered, they are classified as vulnerable, meaning wild populations are declining due to habitat loss, drought and poaching. Richard A. Marini, San Antonio Express-News, "S.A.’s zoo hippo hungry for love from star Fiona in Cincinnati," 14 Mar. 2018 These animals ranged in weight from a few pounds to about 4,000 pounds, with the largest among them similar in bulk to a modern hippopotamus or rhinoceros. Kohei Tanaka, National Geographic, "How Giant Dinosaurs Sat on Their Eggs Without Crushing Them," 15 May 2018 Gigantic leatherback turtles, topping out at about 2,000 pounds, nest along the beaches, while hippopotamuses body surf in the waves. Alexandra Wexler, WSJ, "A Next-Level Safari Vacation: The Africa Few Adventurers See," 9 May 2018 The team also dated a hippopotamus tooth, stone tools and sediments, which provided similar date ranges of about 85,000 to 90,000 years. Nicholas St. Fleur, New York Times, "A Fossilized Finger Bone May Be From the Earliest Humans on the Arabian Peninsula," 9 Apr. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'hippopotamus.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of hippopotamus

1542, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for hippopotamus

Latin, from Greek hippopotamos, alteration of hippos potamios, literally, riverine horse

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Last Updated

26 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for hippopotamus

The first known use of hippopotamus was in 1542

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English Language Learners Definition of hippopotamus

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


hip·​po·​pot·​a·​mus | \ˌhi-pə-ˈpä-tə-məs \
plural hippopotamuses or hippopotami\-​ˌmī \

Kids Definition of hippopotamus

: 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

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More from Merriam-Webster on hippopotamus

Spanish Central: Translation of hippopotamus

Nglish: Translation of hippopotamus for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about hippopotamus

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