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[pos-uh m] /ˈpɒs əm/
Australian. any of various phalangers, especially of the genus Trichosurus.
play possum, Informal.
  1. to feign sleep or death.
  2. to dissemble or pretend ignorance:
    The baseball broke the window, but the children played possum when asked who had thrown it.
Origin of possum
1605-15, Americanism; short for opossum Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for possum
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Don't you know Betsy Grumbo alwus bites in de heart, an' bars never play 'possum?'

    Burl Morrison Heady
  • He belongs to an old Southern family and his name is just possum.

    Cobb's Bill-of-Fare Irvin Shrewsbury Cobb
  • A sly impulse, suggested probably by Halstead's demeanor, prompted me to play 'possum and pretend that I had not waked this time.

    When Life Was Young C. A. Stephens
  • Also she reproached me soundly for permitting Wada to feed meat to possum.

  • Another animal that is at least in one respect allied to the 'possum is the coypu.

  • Which reminds me that Mr. Pike will no longer look at possum.

  • "I guess the whisky boys must have played the 'possum on you," said one of the men.

    By Right of Purchase Harold Bindloss
  • I wouldn't eat a possum if he was singed, roasted, boiled, or fried.'

    The Magic Pudding Norman Lindsay
British Dictionary definitions for possum


an informal name for opossum (sense 1)
(Austral & NZ) Also called phalanger. any of various Australasian arboreal marsupials, such as Trichosurus vulpecula (brush-tailed phalanger), having dense fur and a long tail: family Phalangeridae
play possum, to pretend to be dead, ignorant, asleep, etc, in order to deceive an opponent
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 possum

1610s, shortened form of opossum. Phrase play possum is first recorded 1822.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Idioms and Phrases with possum


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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