hip·​po·​pot·​a·​mus | \ ˌhi-pə-ˈpä-tə-məs How to pronounce hippopotamus (audio) \
plural hippopotamuses or hippopotami\ ˌhi-​pə-​ˈpä-​tə-​ˌmī How to pronounce hippopotamus (audio) , -​(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)

Illustration of hippopotamus

Illustration of hippopotamus

Examples of hippopotamus in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Just as Wittgenstein surely realized that there was no hippopotamus in the room, Russell surely realized that Wittgenstein’s objection could not be dispelled empirically by looking under each desk. The New York Review of Books, 6 July 2022 Since the film’s release, spin-off series have been produced centering on the film’s main characters – Marty the zebra, Alex the lion, Melman the giraffe and Gloria the hippopotamus. oregonlive, 4 Apr. 2022 Bone density can be used as evidence for adaptation to life in water, the study said, as even aquatic animals that are not clearly shaped for an aquatic lifestyle -- such as the hippopotamus -- have very dense bones. Katie Hunt, CNN, 23 Mar. 2022 Cincinnati Zoo's beloved hippopotamus celebrated her 5th birthday on Monday and in honor of the big day, the Cincinnati Red's gifted Fiona with a team baseball jersey – complete with her name and the number 5 – embroidered on the back. Tristan Balagtas, PEOPLE.com, 24 Jan. 2022 That turned out to be a ticking ecological timebomb as the invasive species—with ideal conditions for breeding and no predators to control the population—found themselves in a hippopotamus paradise. David Kindy, Smithsonian Magazine, 21 Oct. 2021 Escobar's hippopotamus collection began with only one male and three females. Stefano Pozzebon And Jack Guy, CNN, 18 Oct. 2021 Entry is made comfortable by generous cavities into the roof which helps a hippopotamus nimble human like me seem almost graceful on entry and exit. Kayvan Nikjou, Forbes, 3 Sep. 2021 The saddest escapee story is Bubbles’ — not Michael Jackson’s chimp, but an Orange County hippopotamus. Los Angeles Times, 20 July 2021 See More

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.

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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The first known use of hippopotamus was in 1542

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Last Updated

31 Jul 2022

Cite this Entry

“Hippopotamus.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hippopotamus. Accessed 13 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for hippopotamus


hip·​po·​pot·​a·​mus | \ ˌhi-pə-ˈpä-tə-məs How to pronounce hippopotamus (audio) \
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

More from Merriam-Webster on hippopotamus

Nglish: Translation of hippopotamus for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about hippopotamus


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