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.

1605–15, Americanism; short for opossum

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World English Dictionary
possum (ˈpɒsəm)
1.  an informal name for opossum
2.  (Austral), (NZ) Also called: phalanger any of various Australasian arboreal marsupials, such as Trichosurus vulpecula (brush-tailed phalanger), having dense fur and a long tail: family Phalangeridae
3.  play possum to pretend to be dead, ignorant, asleep, etc, in order to deceive an opponent

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Word Origin & History

1613, shortened form of opossum (q.v.). Phrase play possum is first recorded 1822.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases


see play possum.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Example sentences
We have neighbors with dogs, and a possum that sits on the fence in the evening, so our dogs do bark.
One of them dies, and the other survives by playing possum using his friend's blood as a disguise.
The inquest was perfunctory, as if a possum had been washed ashore.
Then a possum decided to make my compost pile his nightly hangout.
Idioms & Phrases
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