also  ˈtā-ˌpir,
tə-ˈpir How to pronounce tapir (audio)
plural tapirs also 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 The species may have played a role similar to what tapirs and monkeys play today, as a fruit eater and large seed disperser that helped the forest thrive. Sara Novak, Discover Magazine, 27 Oct. 2023 In her work, she’s helped discover that an average of 733 seeds from 24 different species can be found in one tapir’s feces. Mika Travis, Detroit Free Press, 14 July 2023 The animal went extinct in China some 1,000 years ago, during the Song dynasty, leading to confusion over whether references to tapirs in ancient Chinese texts refer to the large herbivorous mammal or the similarly colored panda. Meilan Solly, Smithsonian Magazine, 16 Aug. 2023 Hu’s team also found in the tomb a complete skeleton of a Malaysian tapir. Lyric Li, Washington Post, 9 Aug. 2023 The capybara young are at the San Diego Zoo’s Elephant Odyssey, alongside the Baird’s tapir. City News Service, San Diego Union-Tribune, 30 July 2023 Her talk focused on tapirs, a pig-like herbivorous mammal that inhabits jungles and forests in South and Central America and Southeast Asia. Mika Travis, Detroit Free Press, 14 July 2023 Mostly nocturnal, tapirs are herbivores who eat up to 75 pounds of leaves, plants and fruit daily. Allison Futterman, Discover Magazine, 29 June 2023 Visitors can follow tapir tracks with the help of a local Bijaguan guide, rise early for a birding adventure, or do a nighttime jungle tour to glimpse nocturnal critters. Lindsay Cohn, Travel + Leisure, 6 June 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'tapir.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Portuguese tapir, tapira, from Tupi tapiʔíra

First Known Use

1774, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of tapir was in 1774

Dictionary Entries Near tapir

Cite this Entry

“Tapir.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tapir. Accessed 3 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


ta·​pir ˈtā-pər How to pronounce tapir (audio)
plural tapir or tapirs
: any of several plant-eating hoofed mammals of tropical America and southeastern Asia that are related to the horse and rhinoceros and have a long flexible snout, a very short tail, and short thick legs

More from Merriam-Webster on tapir

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