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possum

[pos-uh m]
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noun
  1. opossum.
  2. Australian. any of various phalangers, especially of the genus Trichosurus.
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Idioms
  1. 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.
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Origin of possum

1605–15, Americanism; short for opossum
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for play possum

bluff

British Dictionary definitions for play possum

possum

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

possum

n.

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

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

play possum in Culture

play possum

To pretend to be dead, a trick used by opossums to defend themselves from predators: “Everyone thought the old con man had died, but it turned out he was just playing possum.” By extension, it also means “to pretend to be asleep, or to lie low”: “Come on, Harry, open your door. You can't play possum forever.”

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The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with play possum

play possum

Pretend to be dead or asleep, as in Max always plays possum when it's time to clean up his room. This expression alludes to the fact that the opossum falls into an apparent coma when caught, giving the appearance of death. [1820s]

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possum

see play possum.

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