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 An opossum created quite a stir in Everett recently. BostonGlobe.com, 29 Apr. 2021 The Mexican subspecies of the Virginia opossum has appeared eight times in front of the cameras during the study over the past year. AZCentral.com, 15 Apr. 2021 This type of opossum is mostly found farther south in Mexico, and the border lies near the limit of its range. AZCentral.com, 15 Apr. 2021 Her work has included animals ranging from dogs to birds to lions, cats, owls, lambs, fish, elephants, opossum, turtles, koala bears, and polar bears, to name a few. Marcia Layton Turner, Forbes, 27 Feb. 2021 Immediately my flashlight beam fell on the source of the poultry panic, a medium-sized opossum with unusually dark fur, stalking the three hens. Doug Maccash | Staff Writer, NOLA.com, 23 Dec. 2020 This mammal, about the size of an opossum, had a mix of strange characteristics that haven't been seen together before. Ashley Strickland, CNN, 18 Dec. 2020 But during one evening in March, Evan Kosinski’s neighbor told the 6-year-old about seeing two foxes, two raccoons, a rabbit and one opossum between midnight and 6 a.m. Washington Post, 14 Dec. 2020 Her photo of a baby opossum was taken at the Lower Rock Run-I&M Canal access in Joliet, where Wisnieski likes to hike and view nature, a news release said. chicagotribune.com, 7 Dec. 2020

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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Time Traveler for opossum

Time Traveler

The first known use of opossum was in 1610

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Statistics for opossum

Last Updated

7 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Opossum.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/opossum. Accessed 20 Jun. 2021.

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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

More from Merriam-Webster on opossum

Nglish: Translation of opossum for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about opossum


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