orang·​u·​tan ə-ˈraŋ-ə-ˌtaŋ How to pronounce orangutan (audio)
-ˌtan How to pronounce orangutan (audio)
: 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

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web For example, an ophthalmologist for humans performed cataract surgery on a San Diego Zoo gorilla, and prominent cardiologists operated on a Sumatran orangutan named Karen born with a hole in her heart. San Diego Union-Tribune, 13 Oct. 2022 Jolene was born April 13 to first-time mother Kitra, a Bornean orangutan who has lived at the zoo since 2015. oregonlive, 9 May 2022 The environment ministry’s provincial conservation agencies (BKSDA) and national park rangers have supported such work on the ground, for example by counting orangutan nests, collecting elephant dung samples, and setting camera traps for tigers. Bydyna Rochmyaningsih, science.org, 7 Oct. 2022 The crowd squealed upon realizing that Bonnie, an orangutan at the National Zoo, was peeing. James V. Grimaldi, WSJ, 11 Aug. 2022 The incident comes days after an orangutan grabbed a visitor through its cage at a zoo in Indonesia. Fox News, 13 June 2022 In Indonesia, which is plagued with peat fires, primatologist and ecologist Wendy Erb of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has studied smoke’s effect on another primate, the orangutan. Wired, 28 July 2022 The Bornean orangutan moved to the Valley from Omaha, Nebraska, in April and so far is not a fan of the extreme weather. Gloria Rebecca Gomez, The Arizona Republic, 15 June 2022 The incident appears to start as the man, later identified as Hasan Arifin, walks close to the case and the orangutan quickly reaches out to take ahold of his shirt. Lawrence Richard, Fox News, 8 June 2022 See More

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.

Word History


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

First Known Use

1691, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of orangutan was in 1691

Dictionary Entries Near orangutan

Cite this Entry

“Orangutan.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/orangutan. Accessed 8 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition


: a large anthropoid ape of Borneo and Sumatra that is about frac::2/3 as large as a gorilla, eats mostly plants, lives in trees, and has very long arms, long thin reddish brown hair, and a nearly hairless face

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