Definition of opossum in English:

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Pronunciation: /(ə)ˈpäsəm/


Image of opossum
An American marsupial that has a ratlike prehensile tail and hind feet with an opposable thumb.
  • Family Didelphidae: several genera and numerous species, in particular the cat-sized common opossum (Didelphis marsupialis) of North, Central, and South America, which in North America was formerly known as the Virginia opossum and was considered a distinct species (D. virginiana).
Example sentences
  • Scientists say this mammal is the oldest known fossil ancestor of modern marsupials - which include opossums, kangaroos, and koalas.
  • Marsupials, such as the opossums of the Americas and the kangaroos, koalas, and wombats of Australasia, generally give birth to tiny immature young which then complete their developments in a pouch.
  • Primitively clumsy and slow, with conical heads and pointed pink noses, sparse gray fur and naked ears, mature opossums reach the size of house cats (about ten pounds).


Early 17th century: from Virginia Algonquian opassom, from op 'white' + assom 'dog'.

  • possum from early 17th century:

    An informal American term for the opossum, a marsupial whose name comes from a Native American word meaning ‘white dog’. This animal feigns death when it is threatened or attacked, which is why playing possum, an expression recorded from the early 19th century in the USA, is pretending to be asleep or unconscious when threatened. In Australia, to stir the possum is to stir up controversy or liven things up. The Australian possum is also a marsupial but is a different animal from its American counterpart.

Words that rhyme with opossum

blossom, possum

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: o·pos·sum

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