Opossum vs. possum

The term possum covers about 70 species of marsupials native to Australia and surrounding islands. Opossum covers over 100 species of marsupials living in the Western Hemisphere. Opossums are often referred to colloquially as possums (or ‘possums), but in scientific contexts, possum and opossum refer to different groups of animals.

Examples

Western marsupials

We saw an opossum in our backyard last week. Have they always lived in Michigan? [letter to Detroit Free Press]

In the Appalachian Mountains, prepare to greet Virginia opossum and domestic cats. [Cumberland Times-News]

Possum short for opossum

I am thankful the Pilgrims found a turkey before they saw a ‘possum. [Chattanoogan]

First a bear takes off on the red sled and is soon joined by a rabbit, moose, squirrel, possum, and two raccoons, awaken from their winter slumber. [The Missourian]

Australian marsupials

The brushtail possum, which is native to Australia, was recently spotted by wildlife cameras. [Huffington Post]

Two  years after possums were found in medical supplies … plans to redevelop the dilapidated Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Hospital have materialised. [Sydney Morning Herald]

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