- 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
British Dictionary definitions for play possum
Word Origin and History for play possum
1610s, shortened form of opossum. Phrase play possum is first recorded 1822.
Culture definitions for 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.”
Idioms and Phrases with play possum (1 of 2)
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]
Idioms and Phrases with play possum (2 of 2)
see play possum.