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What is the most universal Spanish word to describe a possum? What regional variations exist? Does the translation refer specifically to the same animal as the English word, or does it cover a larger variety of animals?

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I'm pretty sure the English word already refers to more than one different animal in English. The possums in Australia are not the same as the ones in America. – hippietrail Jan 13 '12 at 8:46
This wannabe Latinist saw the headline and immediately thought "puedo!" – Michael Wolf Jan 21 '12 at 2:13
up vote 8 down vote accepted

Technically, "possum" refers to species of the suborder Phalangeriformes, distributed in Australia. However, "opossums" are also commonly called possums (in America).

So, "Falangero" is correct for "possum", and it's derived from the latin name of the suborder they belong (Phalangeriformes). Anyway, I guess possums are not quite common animals. For "opossum" the spanish word is "zarigüeya". "Zarigüeyas" are common and well known animals in America (only american marsupials). So, it depends on what animal are you really referring to.

Anyway, I think "posum" is totally understandable, and if you check in spanish wikipedia for "posum", you get the correct answer. I just ask to a couple of friends (spanish native speakers too) about the meaning of "Los falangeros viven en Australia" y "Los posums viven en australia". Falangeros in the first sentence isn't uniquely associated with an animal, but posum is. I also think in some contexts, "falangero" could be easily interpreted as "thief" rather than an unknown animal, for people ignoring the real meaning of the word. Again, it's not a common animal.

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My Larousse Gran Diccionario lists two Spanish words for the two animals refereed to as "possum" in English:

-1. US (opossum) zarigüeya f; IDIOM Fam to play possum (pretend to be asleep) hacerse el dormido/la dormida; (pretend to know nothing) hacerse el sueco/la sueca
-2. Austr (marsupial) falangero m

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Se conoce como "tlacuache" en algunas partes de México.

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In Texas and Mexico - tlacuaches or tacuaches (more common for tejanos).

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I found this on WordReference dot com:

El principal nombre común que reciben los didelfimorfos es el de zarigüeyas; además, son conocidos en El Salvador como tacuazines, en Guatemala como tacuacines, en México como tlacuaches o tacuaches, en Ecuador como guanchacas, en Honduras como guasalos, en el Perú como mucas o canchalucos, en Bolivia como carachupas, en Colombia como faras, chuchas, runchos o raposas, en Venezuela como rabipelados o faros, en Costa Rica, Panamá y algunas partes de México (como Yucatán) como “zorros”, y en Uruguay y Argentina como “comadrejas” overas, aunque estos dos últimos términos son equívocos, ya que comparten el nombre con mamíferos placentarios completamente diferentes.

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It's better if you put also the link to the post or entry where to took that from. – JoulSauron May 15 '12 at 16:00

Cuila, in Nicaragua

that might be a regionalism only. my wife is from Masaya. I always forget the Mexican word, which brought me to this site

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chucha o zarigüeya en Colombia

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"Tlacuache" in Central Mexico (Gto, Zac, Mich, Jal, Edo Mex, Gro, SLP, Col, Nay, Qro, NL, etc).

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Hola David. Esta respuesta es muy corta, carece de referencias y contiene muchas iniciales que muchos de nosotros no conocemos. ¿Podrías editar tu respuesta para incluir una descripción más detallada? También podría serte útil leer How to Answer. Muchas gracias y bienvenido a Spanish Language. – fedorqui May 5 at 6:09

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