- 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
1605–15, Americanism; short for opossum
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018
Examples from the Web for possum
Two hours east of Dallas, sun-drenched granite cliffs loom high above the cloudy waters of Possum Kingdom Lake.The World Series of Cliff Diving Takes Itself Very Seriously
June 29, 2014
He was also called “Possum,” because he looked like one, especially when he grinned.George Jones Would Break Your Heart Every Time
April 26, 2013
You'd say she's as 43 gray as a 'possum, an' as wrinkled as a burnt boot.Faro Nell and Her Friends
Alfred Henry Lewis
The 'possum is found from Connecticut to Florida and westerly to California.Boy Scouts Handbook
Boy Scouts of America
That is why Possum pretends to be dead when he finds the hunters after him.
"There is one spoon missing," said Mr. Possum, who had been counting the spoons.Sandman's Goodnight Stories
Abbie Phillips Walker
It's more of a coma, something like the hibernation of a bear or a possum.Islands of Space
John W Campbell
- 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.