Definition of hippopotamus in US English:



  • A large thick-skinned semiaquatic African mammal, with massive jaws and large tusks.

    Family Hippopotamidae: the very large Hippopotamus amphibius, frequenting rivers and lakes, and the smaller pygmy hippopotamus (Choeropsis liberiensis), frequenting forests near fresh water in West Africa

    • ‘Arriving in step with East African flora were the creatures of the East African savannas: gazelle, giant deer, hippopotamus, rhinoceros, wart hog.’
    • ‘The giant hippopotamus is the only aquatic artiodactyl, spending most of its time in water.’
    • ‘The hippopotamus, for example, has declined by 95 percent in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 1994, when 30,000 roamed wild.’
    • ‘This year we have scheduled a tiger, three lynxes, a cheetah, two pumas, a hippopotamus, and 500 rabid rats.’
    • ‘Elephants, ostriches, leopards and lions were imported in the first century B.C., followed by hippopotamus, rhinoceros, camels and giraffes.’
    • ‘Mozambique a great diversity of animal life, including zebras, water buffalo, elephants, giraffes, lions, hippopotami, and crocodiles.’
    • ‘Artiodactyls range from the rabbit-sized ‘mouse deer’ of southeast Asia to the three-ton giant hippopotamus and ten-foot giraffes.’
    • ‘Twenty-two days spent tracking elephants, hippopotamuses, and crocodiles in the Okavango Delta.’
    • ‘The presence of the manatee and the hippopotamus in the lower levels of the stratigraphic profile at the Ogoloma site is also significant.’
    • ‘Initial genetic studies have provided evidence that the marine mammals are most closely related to hippopotamuses.’
    • ‘The Cape Colony extended systematic protection to elephants, giraffes, hippopotami, buffalo, zebras, quaggas and antelopes in 1886.’
    • ‘Animals with relatively short distal bones, such as elephants and hippopotamuses, have more columnar legs and do little running.’
    • ‘Africans never succeeded in domesticating their animals, like the rhino and the hippopotamus!’
    • ‘The name hippopotamus comes from Greek and means ‘river horse.’’
    • ‘And those animals were caught, and as the elephant was drowning, the decision was made to destroy the elephant and also the hippopotamus.’
    • ‘The hippopotamus is perfectly at home in the water, mating and giving birth there.’
    • ‘Both could probably fly as well as a helium-filled hippopotamus.’
    • ‘Others - notably of sleek horses, cute lambs, elephants and a hippopotamus - could be auditioning for kitschy animal calendars.’
    • ‘These creatures include fish, crocodiles, turtles, hippopotamuses, monkeys, rodents, and antelopes.’
    • ‘Dwarf elephant, hippopotamus and deer disappeared from Mediterranean Islands around the time of human colonization.’


Middle English: via Latin from Greek hippopotamos, earlier hippos ho potamios ‘river horse’ (from hippos ‘horse’, potamos ‘river’).