orang·​u·​tan | \ ə-ˈraŋ-ə-ˌtaŋ How to pronounce orangutan (audio) , -ˈraŋ-gə-, -ˌtan How to pronounce orangutan (audio) \

Definition of orangutan

: a largely herbivorous arboreal anthropoid ape (Pongo pygmaeus) of Borneo and Sumatra that is about ²/₃ as large as the gorilla and has brown skin, long sparse reddish-brown hair, and very long arms

Illustration of orangutan

Illustration of orangutan

Examples of orangutan in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Yet aside from humans, only a few other species, including orangutans and bonobos, seem to willingly help others. Virginia Morell, Science | AAAS, "These parrots are the first birds observed showing kindness to others," 9 Jan. 2020 In fact, Ngandong is about the same age as layers from another site on Java, called Punung, where excavations have found the bones of animals like orangutans. Kiona N. Smith, Ars Technica, "The last days of Homo erectus," 18 Dec. 2019 For example, orangutans use clambering, upright or horizontal climbing, suspensory swinging, and assisted bipedalism (walking upright using hands for support). Vivien Shaw, Quartz, "Scientists want to rewrite the evolution of walking—but should they?," 14 Dec. 2019 Wildlife populations -- especially orangutans -- have suffered as a result, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Jack Guy, CNN, "Rat-eating macaques could boost palm oil sustainability in Malaysia," 22 Oct. 2019 But without any skulls or skeletons, scientists didn’t know whether the animal, which lived from roughly 2 million to 200,000 years ago, was a relative of today’s orangutans, today’s African apes, or something else entirely. Gretchen Vogel, Science | AAAS, "‘Dragon teeth’ reveal ancient ape’s place in ancient primate family tree," 13 Nov. 2019 Once again, the flora of the region is highly diverse and includes the world’s tallest tropical trees, and the fauna includes orangutans, Sumatran tigers, Sumatran rhinos and elephants. Kristina J. Anderson-teixeira, Smithsonian, "Yes, Tropical Forests Tragically Burned This Summer, But Here’s What You Can Do," 16 Oct. 2019 Reindeer herds tend to circle in a counter-clockwise direction; giraffes move their left leg first when splaying their legs; chimpanzees and gorillas show a significant right-hand bias, while orangutans show the opposite. Katie Hunt, CNN, "It's not only humans who are right-handed. Dolphins also have a dominant side," 26 Nov. 2019 Outside are tall buildings and traffic that bear no resemblance to the lush forests where orangutans naturally live. Washington Post, "Argentine orangutan Sandra to head to US great ape sanctuary," 26 Sep. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'orangutan.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of orangutan

1691, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for orangutan

Bazaar Malay (Malay-based pidgin), from Malay orang man + hutan forest

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about orangutan

Time Traveler for orangutan

Time Traveler

The first known use of orangutan was in 1691

See more words from the same year

Statistics for orangutan

Last Updated

13 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Orangutan.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/orangutan. Accessed 26 January 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for orangutan


How to pronounce orangutan (audio) How to pronounce orangutan (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of orangutan

: a large ape that has very long arms and reddish-brown hair


orang·​utan | \ ə-ˈraŋ-ə-ˌtaŋ How to pronounce orangutan (audio) , -ˌtan \

Kids Definition of orangutan

: a large ape of Borneo and Sumatra that lives in trees, eats mostly fruit, leaves, and other plant matter, and has very long arms, long reddish brown hair, and a nearly hairless face

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on orangutan

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with orangutan

Spanish Central: Translation of orangutan

Nglish: Translation of orangutan for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about orangutan

Comments on orangutan

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


to express in a more acceptable way

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Intact Latin Quiz

  • roman tablet
  • What did focus mean in Latin?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Bee Cubed

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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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