Share this entry

hippopotamus Line breaks: hippo|pot¦amus
Pronunciation: /ˌhɪpəˈpɒtəməs/

Definition of hippopotamus in English:

noun (plural hippopotamuses or hippopotami ˌhɪpəˈpɒtəmʌɪ)

A large thick-skinned semiaquatic African mammal, with massive jaws and large tusks.
Example sentences
  • Arriving in step with East African flora were the creatures of the East African savannas: gazelle, giant deer, hippopotamus, rhinoceros, wart hog.
  • The Cape Colony extended systematic protection to elephants, giraffes, hippopotami, buffalo, zebras, quaggas and antelopes in 1886.
  • Animals with relatively short distal bones, such as elephants and hippopotamuses, have more columnar legs and do little running.


Middle English: via Latin from Greek hippopotamos, earlier hippos ho potamios 'river horse' (from hippos 'horse', potamos 'river').

  • equestrian from mid 17th century:

    Both equestrian and equine (late 18th century) ‘like a horse’ are from Latin equus ‘horse’, a word that goes right back to the earliest times—unsurprisingly, as horses would have been so important to ancient peoples. Its root was also the source of the Greek equivalent to equus, hippos, which is where we get hippopotamus or ‘river horse’.

Words that rhyme with hippopotamus

dichotomous, trichotomous

Definition of hippopotamus in:

Share this entry


What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.

Get more from Oxford Dictionaries

Subscribe to remove ads and access premium resources

Word of the day whippersnapper
Pronunciation: ˈ(h)wipərˌsnapər
a young, inexperienced person considered presumptuous or overconfident...