hippopotamus

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

Definition of hippopotamus

plural

hippopotamuses

or

hippopotami

play \ˌhi-pə-ˈpä-tə-ˌmī, -(ˌ)mē\
  1. :  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

Origin and Etymology of hippopotamus

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


First Known Use: 1563

Other Mammals Terms


HIPPOPOTAMUS Defined for English Language Learners

hippopotamus

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

Definition of hippopotamus for English Language Learners

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


HIPPOPOTAMUS Defined for Kids

hippopotamus

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

Definition of hippopotamus for Students

plural

hippopotamuses

or

hippopotami

\-ˌmī\
  1. :  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

History for 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.



Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up hippopotamus? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!

WORD OF THE DAY

an exhausted condition

Get Word of the Day daily email!

WORD GAMES

Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!

  • peter-bruegel-tower-of-babel-painting
  • What language does pajama come from?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!