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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 hippopotamus
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Just think of the hippopotamus, the horse or "hippos" that lives in the rivers.

    Ancient Man Hendrik Willem van Loon
  • It was as if a dweller in a Harlem flat had been presented with a hippopotamus.

    Shavings Joseph C. Lincoln
  • You have never tried to demonstrate to a hypnotic that a table is not a hippopotamus.

    The Book of the Damned Charles Fort
  • It was voted by acclamation, that hippopotamus was agreeable to the company.

  • "I don't believe you ever had a $100 bill," growled the hippopotamus.

    Andiron Tales John Kendrick Bangs
  • Why not ask Farmer Green to shoot off the tail of the hippopotamus?

    The Tale of Ferdinand Frog Arthur Scott Bailey
  • I've had—call it hippopotamus on the chest this two months, and you'll about hit the mark.

    The Dop Doctor

    Clotilde Inez Mary Graves
  • Amongst other spoor, he was pleased to observe that of the hippopotamus.

    The Giraffe Hunters Mayne Reid
  • According to Michael Boyn, the hippopotamus has been found in the rivers of China.

    The Giraffe Hunters Mayne Reid
British Dictionary definitions for hippopotamus


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 hippopotamus

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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