opossum

noun
opos·sum | \ (ə-)ˈpä-səm \
plural opossums also opossum

Definition of opossum 

1 : any of a family (Didelphidae) of small- to medium-sized American marsupials that usually have a pointed snout and nearly hairless scaly prehensile tail, are typically active at night, and are sometimes hunted for their fur or meat especially : a common omnivorous largely nocturnal mammal (Didelphis virginiana) of North and Central America that is a skilled climber, that typically has a white face and grayish body and in the female a well-developed fur-lined pouch, and that when threatened may feign death by curling up the body and remaining motionless and unresponsive

Illustration of opossum

Illustration of opossum

opossum 1

Examples of opossum in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Sarah Bowman/IndyStar Indiana's bobcats, raccoons, opossums and coyotes might be spared after all. Sarah Bowman, Indianapolis Star, "Bobcats, raccoons and coyotes might be saved, now it's up to the Natural Resources Commission," 10 May 2018 The Longhorned tick was found recently on an opossum in Polk County, in western North Carolina along the South Carolina border. Mark Price, charlotteobserver, "New ‘exotic’ tick invades NC, and it’s an ‘aggressive biter.’ How far has it spread?," 12 July 2018 The occasional squirrel or opossum that falls on wires, triggering outages. Bill Laitner, Detroit Free Press, "History of power outages riles metro Detroiters, DTE promises fixes," 28 June 2018 To conduct the work, researchers analyzed 76 studies that looked at how 62 species of mammals on six continents—from opossums to elephants—changed their behavior in response to human activities such as hunting, farming, and development. Elizabeth Gamillo, Science | AAAS, "Human activity is causing more and more animals to embrace the night," 14 June 2018 Others include a Canada goose with severe leg injuries from fishing line, a woodchuck with a large lesion on its hindquarters and an opossum with a frostbitten tail. Meg Jones, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Clover, the adorable fox kit found abandoned last week, is improving at Humane Society," 22 Mar. 2018 From the beginning, the thylacine’s common names—zebra wolf, tiger wolf, opossum-hyena, Tasmanian dingo—marked it as another chimera, too incongruous to understand on its own terms. Brooke Jarvis, The New Yorker, "The Obsessive Search for the Tasmanian Tiger," 16 Jan. 2012 These studies had captured the 24-hour movements of medium- and large-bodied mammals, ranging from opossums to African elephants, encompassing 62 species across six continents. Annie Sneed, Scientific American, "Humans Are Driving Other Mammals to Become More Nocturnal," 14 June 2018 Humanistic comments were the common responses on the videos of raccoons and opossums—though a sizable share of the latter were negativistic, too. Jessica Leigh Hester, WIRED, "What Ecologists Can Learn From Memes," 7 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'opossum.' 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 opossum

1610, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for opossum

earlier apossoun, opassom, borrowed from a Virginia Algonquian word of uncertain form, going back to Algonquian *wa·p- "white" + *-aʔθemw- "dog, small animal"

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Statistics for opossum

Last Updated

27 Aug 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for opossum

The first known use of opossum was in 1610

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More Definitions for opossum

opossum

noun

English Language Learners Definition of opossum

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

opossum

noun
opos·sum | \ ə-ˈpä-səm \

Kids Definition of opossum

: an American animal related to the kangaroo that has a long pointed snout, lives both on the ground and in trees, and is active at night

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