ta·​pir | \ˈtā-pər also ˈtā-ˌpir or tə-ˈpir \
plural tapirs also tapir

Definition of tapir 

: any of a genus (Tapirus) of herbivorous chiefly nocturnal perissodactyl mammals of tropical America and southeastern Asia from Myanmar to Sumatra that have a heavy sparsely hairy body and the snout and upper lip prolonged into a short flexible proboscis

Illustration of tapir

Illustration of tapir

Examples of tapir in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Don’s characteristic watermelon spots and stripes camouflage young tapirs in their forest habitat in Mexico, Central America and Colombia. Bradley J. Fikes, sandiegouniontribune.com, "For the Fourth, bring out the (San Diego Zoo) babies!," 3 July 2018 Luna, a Baird’s tapir, had to wait 13 months for her new son to arrive on June 13. Bradley J. Fikes, sandiegouniontribune.com, "For the Fourth, bring out the (San Diego Zoo) babies!," 3 July 2018 These types of tapirs, native to Mexico, Central America and northwestern South America, are listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Mary Forgione, latimes.com, "Cuteness alert! Where to find some of the newest zoo babies, from Scotland to Santa Barbara," 6 Apr. 2018 This area will feature jaguars, monkeys, giant river otters, capybaras, birds and tapirs. Rebecca Hazen, Houston Chronicle, "$150 million campaign announced for Houston Zoo," 9 Apr. 2018 The study, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, analyzed the bones of a number of species found at Ceibal, including deer, opossums, turkeys, tapirs, wild cats and dogs. Nell Lewis, CNN, "How the ancient Maya reared dogs for food," 23 Mar. 2018 Such big urban centers require lots of food, and the Mayans hunted deer, peccaries, and tapirs. Michael Price, Science | AAAS, "Some dogs were royalty, others were dinner in ancient Mayan culture," 19 Mar. 2018 Many belong to extinct species, including mammoths, mastodons, enormous cats, short-faced bears, camels, tapirs, American lions, horses, javelinas and an odd, rhino-looking species belong to a family called Toxodontidae. Brendan Gibbons, San Antonio Express-News, "Friesenhahn Cave just outside S.A. yielded treasure trove of Ice Age fossils," 17 Dec. 2017 Rabbits, tapirs, porcupines, pigs, and birds are among the fallen at the country’s northern zoo. Carlos Jasso, National Geographic, "Animals Starving in Venezuela Zoos," 28 July 2016

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'tapir.' 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 tapir

1774, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for tapir

Portuguese tapir, tapira, from Tupi tapiʔíra

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Dictionary Entries near tapir


tapioca fish






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Time Traveler for tapir

The first known use of tapir was in 1774

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English Language Learners Definition of tapir

: an animal that is like a pig with a long nose and short legs and that lives in tropical America and Southeast Asia


ta·​pir | \ˈtā-pər \

Kids Definition of tapir

: a large hoofed plant-eating animal of tropical America and southeastern Asia that has short thick legs, a short tail, and a long flexible snout

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