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[uh-pos-uh m, pos-uh m] /əˈpɒs əm, ˈpɒs əm/
noun, plural opossums (especially collectively) opossum.
a prehensile-tailed marsupial, Didelphis virginiana, of the eastern U.S., the female having an abdominal pouch in which its young are carried: noted for the habit of feigning death when in danger.
any of various animals of related genera.
Compare possum.
Origin of opossum
Virginia Algonquian
1600-10, Americanism; < Virginia Algonquian (E spelling) opassom, opussum, aposoum (equivalent to Proto-Algonquian *wa˙p- white + *-aʔθemw- dog) Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for opossum
Historical Examples
  • A little higher in the scale stand the kangaroo and the opossum.

    The Meaning of Evolution Samuel Christian Schmucker
  • Among mammals, the best-known example is probably the opossum.

    The Industries of Animals Frdric Houssay
  • The opossum is famous for carrying its young in a pouch in front of the body.

    Boy Scouts Handbook Boy Scouts of America
  • It had a gray coat, and a tapering muzzle like that of an opossum.

  • The next day, to our great satisfaction, the opossum hove in sight.

    Salt Water W. H. G. Kingston
  • We neither of us took warning from our misfortune in the opossum.

    Salt Water W. H. G. Kingston
  • He had just before caught sight of an opossum, which had escaped him.

    Afar in the Forest W.H.G. Kingston
  • One of them fired at an opossum which they had, I concluded, driven out of its hole.

    Adventures in Australia W.H.G. Kingston
  • On showing the opossum to Gerald, he said it was called the “crab-eater.”

    The Young Llanero W.H.G. Kingston
  • Their names mean "shooter of blow-pipe at coyote," "at opossum," and so forth.

British Dictionary definitions for opossum


noun (pl) -sums, -sum
any thick-furred marsupial, esp Didelphis marsupialis (common opossum), of the family Didelphidae of S North, Central, and South America, having an elongated snout and a hairless prehensile tail Sometimes (informal) shortened to possum
Also called (Austral and NZ) possum. any of various similar animals, esp the phalanger, Trichosurus vulpecula, of the New Zealand bush
Word Origin
C17: from Algonquian aposoum; related to Delaware apässum, literally: white beast
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 opossum

1610, from Powhatan (Algonquian) opassum, "equivalent to a proto-Algonquian term meaning 'white dog'" [Bright].

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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