Possum vs Opossum: Which Spelling Is Correct?

Have you ever wondered about the difference between a possum and an opossum? These two words sound similar, but they are quite different! Perhaps the biggest thing they have in common is that they’re both marsupials and both completely adorable, but these two are not just similar-sounding animals, they actually are quite different from one another. Here, we’ll look at the difference between possum and opossum to see if the name similarity holds up as well!

What Is a Possum?

A possum is a small, furry, nocturnal marsupial that’s native to Australia and New Guinea.

Examples of using possum in sentences:

He will be arrested if he takes that possum into the city.

I saw a possum playing dead when I was driving home from work the other night.

The possum ate all my rose bushes.

Common brushtail possum in Tasmania. Source: Wikimedia

Possum Facts

The Possum is a marsupial that is found in Australia, New Zealand, and some other countries. They are omnivores, and they look similar to a cat with a striped tail. The possum is nocturnal and their favorite place to hang out is … you guessed it, in trees!

They are known to make a variety of sounds from a hissing noise to a clicking noise, and the possum has a prehensile tail that helps it hang from trees. Possums are also very adaptable, which is why they are also found in other places like New Guinea.

Possums have a very thick coat that is usually a grayish-white color with black stripes.

The possum’s favorite food is fruit, but they also like to eat insects, bird eggs, small animals, and carrion. Possums are nocturnal and very active at night, which is why they are commonly found early in the morning in attics! Not always a pleasant surprise.

Possums have a very thick skin that is resistant to snake venom and a pouch that allows them to carry their young around with them wherever they go! Possums are able to live for up to four years in the wild and are about 13 inches long when born.

What Is an Opossum?

An opossum is a marsupial with a prehensile tail that is native to the Americas.

Examples of using opossum in sentences:
The opossum was so cute, I wanted to put it in my pocket and keep it.

Opossums often play dead when attacked.

The opossum and the armadillo are the only mammals in the United States that can survive being frozen.

Important Information: The reason that possum and opossum are so often confused, is because North Americans don’t typically pronounce the “O”. So when an American sees an opossum, they incorrectly call it a possum. This is why so many people become confused and end up thinking that an opossum and a possum are the same animals.

A popular children’s book in the United States has even capitalized on this mispronunciation by calling their book “Possum Come A-Knockin'”.

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Many people believe that the “o” in opossum is supposed to be silent. This is false. The “o” is pronounced.

A trick to remember the difference is that possums are not typically found in the United States, therefore, if you are looking at an animal in the United States, it’s probably an opossum! Similarly, if you’re in Australia, you’re seeing a possum, not an opossum.

Opossum With Babies
Didelphis virginiana with young. Source: Wikimedia

Opossum Facts

The opossum is a marsupial, which means that they give birth to their young before they are fully developed. They give birth to the young in a pouch and the young continue to develop as they stay in the pouch. The young are born without fur, and they need to stay in the pouch for around 2 months before they are fully developed and can go out on their own.

They are omnivores, which means that they eat both plants and animals. The Opossum will eat both plants and other small animals, which can include insects, worms, snails, slugs, reptiles, amphibians, birds, eggs, small mammals, carrion, fruits, nuts, and seeds. They will scavenge for food in the night, when it is cool and when they are less likely to be found by other animals.

Opossums have a prehensile tail, which means that they can use their tail for grasping. They use their tail a lot when they are climbing, but they also use it for balance, as they are a bottom-heavy animal. The tail is also used for storing fat.

Opossums are nocturnal, but they can be quite active in the evening when it is dark and cool. They are rarely seen during the day, as they are very shy and prefer to be hidden away.

They are very clean animals, and they will always clean themselves after playing or eating. Opossums have a very acute sense of smell, which helps them find food. They also have a very acute sense of hearing as well. Remember, they are mainly found in North and South America. They are not found in Asia, Africa, or Australia, like the Possum.

What’s the Difference Between a Possum and an Opossum?

Both possums and opossums are types of marsupials, but the main difference is where they are located globally. Possums are common in Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea, and Sulawesi. Opossums are native to the Americas. People in the Americas mistakenly call their species of marsupials “possum” by dropping the “o”.


So, is there a difference between opossum and possum? The short answer is yes! These are two entirely different animals that live across the globe from each other.

The reason that there is confusion regarding the spelling “possum vs opossum” is that most people in North America who see an opossum, mistakenly call it a possum. Possum and opossum are pronounced differently, exactly as they look.

Possum is pronounced as /pəˈsʌm/. Opossum is pronounced as /ˈɒpəsʌm/.

Opossums are found in the Americas. The word possum is a North American pronunciation of the word opossum. In the UK and Australia, the opossum is used to describe the Australian marsupial, and the possum is used to describe the American marsupial. Now you know the difference between possum and opossum!


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