[uh-pos-uh m, pos-uh m]
- 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.
Origin of opossum
1600–10, Americanism; < Virginia Algonquian (E spelling) opassom, opussum, aposoum (equivalent to Proto-Algonquian *wa˙p- white + *-aʔθemw- dog)
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Examples from the Web for opossum
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
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.Adventures of a Young Naturalist
The next day, to our great satisfaction, the Opossum hove in sight.Salt Water
W. H. G. Kingston
- 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 tailSometimes (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
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
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