play possum(redirected from possum)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Acronyms, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.
Fig. to pretend to be inactive, unobservant, asleep, or dead. (The possum refers to an opossum.) I knew that Bob wasn't asleep. He was just playing possum. I can't tell if this animal is dead or just playing possum.
to pretend to be dead or sleeping His younger sister jumped on him because she knew he was just playing possum.
Usage notes: usually done so that someone will not annoy or attack you
Etymology: from the habit of a possum ( or opossum, a small wild animal) of not moving when in danger
to pretend to be dead or sleeping so that someone will not annoy or attack you I don't think he's really asleep. He's playing possum.
Pretend to be dead or asleep, as in Max always plays possum when it's time to clean up his room. This expression alludes to the fact that the opossum falls into an apparent coma when caught, giving the appearance of death. [1820s]
To pretend to be sleeping or dead.