Australian. any of various phalangers, especially of the genus Trichosurus.
play possum, Informal.
- to feign sleep or death.
- to dissemble or pretend ignorance: The baseball broke the window, but the children played possum when asked who had thrown it.
Origin of possum
; short for opossum
Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019
Related Words for play possumbluff
British Dictionary definitions for play possum
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
play possum to pretend to be dead, ignorant, asleep, etc, in order to deceive an opponent
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
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Word Origin and History for play possum
1610s, shortened form of opossum. Phrase play possum is first recorded 1822.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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.”
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
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]
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.