ta·​pir | \ ˈtā-pər also ˈtā-ˌpir or tə-ˈpir How to pronounce tapir (audio) \
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

During a night tour of the world-famous Belize Zoo led by professional keepers, hand-feed the national animal of Belize, the tapir, and meet an orphaned jaguar known as Junior Buddy. National Geographic, "Belize High School Expedition," 12 June 2019 Ride a longboat down the Tiputini River with an indigenous guide, who will help us spot turtles, tapirs, and caimans bobbing at the water’s surface. National Geographic, "Ecuadorian Amazon and the Galápagos High School Expedition," 12 June 2019 The closest relatives to the Macrauchenia are the order order Perissodactyla, which includes zebras, rhinos, and tapirs. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "It Will Take Millions of Years for Evolution to Replace What We Might Lose in the Next 50," 16 Oct. 2018 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

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.

See More

First Known Use of tapir

1774, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for tapir

Portuguese tapir, tapira, from Tupi tapiʔíra

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about tapir

Dictionary Entries near tapir


tapioca fish






Statistics for tapir

Last Updated

3 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for tapir

The first known use of tapir was in 1774

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for tapir



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 How to pronounce tapir (audio) \

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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on tapir

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with tapir

Spanish Central: Translation of tapir

Nglish: Translation of tapir for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about tapir

Comments on tapir

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


food or victuals

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Farm Idioms Quiz

  • cow coming home
  • What does 'poke' refer to in the expression 'pig in a poke'?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


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!