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[pos-uh m] /ˈpɒs əm/
Australian. any of various phalangers, especially of the genus Trichosurus.
play possum, Informal.
  1. to feign sleep or death.
  2. 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 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for possum
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Don't you know Betsy Grumbo alwus bites in de heart, an' bars never play 'possum?'

    Burl Morrison Heady
  • That is why possum pretends to be dead when he finds the hunters after him.

  • A sly impulse, suggested probably by Halstead's demeanor, prompted me to play 'possum and pretend that I had not waked this time.

    When Life Was Young C. A. Stephens
  • It's more of a coma, something like the hibernation of a bear or a possum.

    Islands of Space John W Campbell
  • Another animal that is at least in one respect allied to the 'possum is the coypu.

  • Had Black Beard been playing 'possum when he ought to have been laid out?

    Ambrotox and Limping Dick Oliver Fleming
  • And the 'Coon and 'possum laughed, too, for they hadn't had any company at all, but had been making believe all the time.

  • Him eaty da' 'possum, him eaty da' pop-co'n, him roas'n da' taty. '

    Nights With Uncle Remus Joel Chandler Harris
British Dictionary definitions for possum


an informal name for opossum (sense 1)
(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
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
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Word Origin and History for possum

1610s, shortened form of opossum. Phrase play possum is first recorded 1822.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Idioms and Phrases with possum


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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