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 Cows, pigs, sheep, and even opossum were the most common. Adrian Miller, Fortune, "If you barbecue on July 4th, you’re building on a Black American legacy," 3 July 2020 Brazilian researchers confirmed the long-standing hypothesis that the pollination of S. fungiforme requires opossums. Rafil Kroll-zaidi, Harper's Magazine, "Findings," 27 Apr. 2020 While their names are similar and both are marsupials, possums and opossums are different creatures. National Geographic, "Possums," 6 Mar. 2020 The Humane Society says opossums rarely carry rabies and the nocturnal animals are not typically aggressive. Alaa Elassar, CNN, "Baby opossum beaten until blinded on Hilton Head golf course," 12 Jan. 2020 The opossum, who is less than a year old, weighs two pounds and still has her baby teeth. Alaa Elassar, CNN, "Baby opossum beaten until blinded on Hilton Head golf course," 12 Jan. 2020 The one pictured above has a body of orange Australian opossum, purchased years ago from the late Fran Betters, who invented the Haystack at his fly shop in the Adirondacks. Morgan Lyle, Field & Stream, "9 Simple Flies for Catching Early-Season Trout," 30 Mar. 2020 Despite the attack, the opossum has been friendly to those caring for her. Alaa Elassar, CNN, "Baby opossum beaten until blinded on Hilton Head golf course," 12 Jan. 2020 One, the opossum, is a tick-eliminating champ, grooming away 96 percent of tick larvae that infest it, a research study says. National Geographic, "Holographic elephants shine new light on tradition—and other innovations," 5 Nov. 2019

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

17 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Opossum.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/opossum. Accessed 3 Aug. 2020.

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How to pronounce opossum (audio)

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

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