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[hip-uh-pot-uh-muh s] /ˌhɪp əˈpɒt ə məs/
noun, plural hippopotamuses, hippopotami
[hip-uh-pot-uh-mahy] /ˌhɪp əˈpɒt əˌmaɪ/ (Show IPA)
a large herbivorous mammal, Hippopotamus amphibius, having a thick hairless body, short legs, and a large head and muzzle, found in and near the rivers, lakes, etc., of Africa, and able to remain under water for a considerable time.
Origin of hippopotamus
1555-65; < Latin < Greek hippopótamos, earlier híppos potámios literally, riverine horse (term used by Herodotus in his account of the Egyptian hippopotamus); compare Middle English ypotame, ypotamos, ypotanus < Old French ypotame < Medieval Latin ypotamus
Related forms
[hip-uh-puh-tam-ik] /ˌhɪp ə pəˈtæm ɪk/ (Show IPA),
[hip-uh-puh-tey-mee-uh n] /ˌhɪp ə pəˈteɪ mi ən/ (Show IPA),
adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for hippopotami
Historical Examples
  • She was overjoyed; there were no comparisons with hippopotami in HER mind.

    Shavings Joseph C. Lincoln
  • hippopotami lay snorting unconcernedly in a stream that was crossed.

    From Pole to Pole

    Sven Anders Hedin
  • There were six rivers to cross, full (says Isaaco) of alligators and hippopotami.

  • His thief object was to find a country frequented by hippopotami and giraffes.

    The Giraffe Hunters Mayne Reid
  • There was no fear, no rivalry, and no enmity between them and the hippopotami.

    Tales of Space and Time Herbert George Wells
  • They seemed in no way afraid of the hippopotami, which they kept watching as they swam by.

    In the Wilds of Africa W.H.G. Kingston
  • In the river and lake, too, there is an immense number of hippopotami and crocodiles.

    In the Wilds of Africa W.H.G. Kingston
  • Jack, however, shouted out to Stanley, and pointed to the hippopotami.

    In the Wilds of Africa W.H.G. Kingston
  • Pigs abounded in the low grounds, and hippopotami in the lake.

    Great African Travellers W.H.G. Kingston
  • Many of these pools were full of crocodiles and hippopotami.

    Great African Travellers W.H.G. Kingston
British Dictionary definitions for hippopotami


noun (pl) -muses, -mi (-ˌmaɪ)
a very large massive gregarious artiodactyl mammal, Hippopotamus amphibius, living in or around the rivers of tropical Africa: family Hippopotamidae. It has short legs and a thick skin sparsely covered with hair
pigmy hippopotamus, a related but smaller animal, Choeropsis liberiensis
Word Origin
C16: from Latin, from Greek hippopotamos river horse, from hippos horse + potamos river
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for hippopotami



1560s, from Late Latin hippopotamus, from Greek hippopotamus "riverhorse" (earlier ho hippos ho potamios "the horse of the river"), from hippos "horse" (see equine) + potamos "river, rushing water" (see potamo-). Replaced Middle English ypotame (c.1300), which is from the same source but via Old French. Glossed in Old English as sæhengest.

Ypotamos comen flyngynge. ... Grete bestes and griselich ["Kyng Alisaunder," c.1300]

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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