/pos"euhm/, n.
1. opossum.
2. play possum, Informal.
a. to feign sleep or death.
b. to dissemble or pretend ignorance: The baseball broke the window, but the children played possum when asked who had thrown it.
3. Australian. any of various phalangers, esp. of the genus Trichosurus.
[1605-15, Amer.; short for OPOSSUM]

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Any of several species (family Phalangeridae) of nocturnal, arboreal marsupials of Australia and New Guinea.

They are 22–50 in. (55–125 cm) long, including the long prehensile tail, and have woolly fur. All species eat fruits, leaves, and blossoms; some also eat insects and small vertebrates. Possums grasp branches with their hind feet. Most species bear their young in tree hollows and unused birds' nests; a few build leafy nests. Several species are endangered because of predation, fur trapping, or habitat loss, but the common brush-tailed possum is considered a pest. See also opossum.

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      in Australia, any member of the phalanger (q.v.) family of marsupial mammals. For phalangers called flying possums, see glider. For American marsupials of similar name, see opossum.

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Universalium. 2010.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Possum — Pos sum, n. [Shortened from opossum.] (Zo[ o]l.) An opossum. [Colloq. U. S.] [1913 Webster] {To play possum}, {To act possum}, to feign ignorance, indifference or inattention, with the intent to deceive; to dissemble; in allusion to the habit of… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • possum — ► NOUN 1) a tree dwelling Australasian marsupial. 2) N. Amer. informal an opossum. ● play possum Cf. ↑play possum ORIGIN shortening of OPOSSUM(Cf. ↑opossum) …   English terms dictionary

  • possum — 1610s, shortened form of OPOSSUM (Cf. opossum). Phrase play possum is first recorded 1822 …   Etymology dictionary

  • possum — ☆ possum [päs′əm ] n. Informal OPOSSUM play possum to pretend to be asleep, dead, ill, unaware, etc.: an opossum may become motionless when endangered …   English World dictionary

  • Possum — Taxobox name = Possums image width = 240px image caption = Common Brushtail Possum ( Trichosurus vulpecula ) regnum = Animalia phylum = Chordata classis = Mammalia infraclassis = Marsupialia ordo = Diprotodontia subordo = Phalangeriformes subordo …   Wikipedia

  • Possum — Opossum Nom vernaculaire ou nom normalisé ambigu : Le terme « Opossum » s applique, en français, à plusieurs taxons distincts. Opossum …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Possum — Der Fuchskusu ist eine der als Possums bezeichneten Tierarten Als Possums werden eine Reihe von Beutelsäugern der Ordnung Diprotodontia aus dem australasischen Raum bezeichnet, namentlich ein Großteil oder auch alle Vertreter der Unterordnung… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • possum — /ˈpɒsəm / (say posuhm) noun 1. Also, Obsolete, opossum. any of many herbivorous, largely arboreal, Australian marsupials of the superfamily Phalangeroidea, especially of the genera Trichosurus, Pseudochirus and Petaurus, ranging in size from the… …  

  • possum — stir the possum Deliberately cause controversy, especially in a public debate. The phrase was first recorded in 1900, but its origin is unknown. Some suggest it arose from a reversal of the American expression to play possum , which refers to the …   Australian idioms

  • possum — UK [ˈpɒs(ə)m] / US [ˈpɑsəm] noun [countable] Word forms possum : singular possum plural possums an opossum • play possum …   English dictionary

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