[ 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
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for possum

British Dictionary definitions for possum


/ (ˈpɒsəm) /


an informal name for opossum (def. 1)
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 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for possum



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

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with possum


see play possum.

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