opos·​sum | \ (ə-)ˈpä-səm How to pronounce opossum (audio) \
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

People commonly contract this type of typhus after spending significant time outside or coming into contact with wild animals like opossums, rats and cats. Lauren Caruba, ExpressNews.com, "Rash, fever, fatigue: San Antonio veterinarian calls attention to flea-borne typhus," 10 Aug. 2019 They were released into the wild and have devastated native populations of bobcats, opossums, raccoons and foxes and have nearly wiped out cottontail rabbits. Washington Post, "Florida doubles efforts to hunt invasive pythons," 7 Aug. 2019 Tires don’t shriek when somebody brakes to avoid an opossum transfixed by headlights in the middle of the road. Gena Steffens, Smithsonian, "The Snakes That Ate Florida," 11 July 2019 Some 96 million years ago, the suburbs of Dallas, Texas, were part of a lush river delta that was home to turtles, dinosaurs, fish—and a bizarre creature that looked like a crocodile but may have eaten like an opossum. Michael Greshko, National Geographic, "Fossils of oddball crocodile relative found in Texas suburb," 10 June 2019 Bryan said that the opossum was actually snuggled into one of the girls dresses, with its head peeking out of the pocket. Elizabeth Gulino, House Beautiful, "A Opossum Was Living in a 7-Year-Old’s Room For Three Days Before Anyone Noticed," 19 Apr. 2019 More by Peter Fimrite Bobcats reduced their daytime activity by 31%, skunk activity decreased 40%and opossums foraged 66% less when people were talking. Peter Fimrite, SFChronicle.com, "Fearsome mountain lions high-tail it out of there when they hear human voices," 17 July 2019 This article is a selection from the July/August issue of Smithsonian magazine The raccoons and marsh rabbits and opossums and other small, warmblooded animals are gone, or almost gone, because Burmese pythons seem to have eaten them. Gena Steffens, Smithsonian, "The Snakes That Ate Florida," 11 July 2019 Here is some of what ensues: Heist keeps an opossum with a UTI in his desk drawer. Constance Grady, Vox, "Jonathan Lethem’s Feral Detective is a mess. But it’s a fun mess.," 27 Nov. 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

13 Aug 2019

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Time Traveler for opossum

The first known use of opossum was in 1610

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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


opos·​sum | \ ə-ˈpä-səm How to pronounce opossum (audio) \

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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More from Merriam-Webster on opossum

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with opossum

Spanish Central: Translation of opossum

Nglish: Translation of opossum for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about opossum

Comments on opossum

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a period when something is suspended

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