opossum

[uh-pos-uhm, pos-uhm]
noun, plural opossums (especially collectively) opossum.
1.
a prehensile-tailed marsupial, Didelphis virginiana, of the eastern U.S., the female having an abdominal pouch in which its young are carried: noted for the habit of feigning death when in danger.
2.
any of various animals of related genera.
Compare possum.


Origin:
1600–10, Americanism; < Virginia Algonquian (E spelling) opassom, opussum, aposoum (equivalent to Proto-Algonquian *wa˙p- white + *-aʔθemw- dog)

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World English Dictionary
opossum (əˈpɒsəm)
 
n , pl -sums, -sum
1.  Sometimes (informal) shortened to: possum any thick-furred marsupial, esp Didelphis marsupialis (common opossum), of the family Didelphidae of S North, Central, and South America, having an elongated snout and a hairless prehensile tail
2.  Also called (Austral and NZ): possum any of various similar animals, esp the phalanger, Trichosurus vulpecula, of the New Zealand bush
 
[C17: from Algonquian aposoum; related to Delaware apässum, literally: white beast]

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Etymonline
Word Origin & History

opossum
1610, from Powhatan (Algonquian) apasum "white animal."
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Example sentences
But all of that doesn't matter much when, in utter joy, she puts her little opossum tail on vibrate.
Instead, the opossum uses its tail as a brace and a fifth limb when climbing.
Image for opossum
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