The Plural of Hippopotamus: Here’s What It Is and How to Use It

If you have ever needed to use the plural form of hippopotamus and wondered what it is, you have come to the right place. This article will teach you what hippopotamus is, the plural form of the word, the history and origin, synonyms, and examples of the word in context.

Your writing, at its best

Compose bold, clear, mistake-free writing with Grammarly's AI-powered writing assistant

What Is the Definition of the Word Hippopotamus

The word hippopotamus is defined as:

  • Any of a family (Hippopotamidae) of very large, four-toed, chiefly aquatic, herbivorous artiodactyl mammals having a very large head and mouth, nearly hairless thick grayish skin, long lower canine teeth, and relatively short legs, and including two living species:
  • One (Hippopotamus amphibius) of sub-Saharan Africa that has webbing between the toes, spends most of the day in or near water, and typically weighs between 3 to 4 tons (2700 to 3600 kilograms)

What Is the Plural Form of Hippopotamus

Since the word hippopotamus comes from Greek instead of Latin, the correct pluralization would be hippopotamuses. This is similar to the plural form of octopus being octopuses, although many believed and taught that octopi was the correct form, they incorrectly tried to tie it to a Latin word with a Latin plural when it also was a Greek word originally. The correct form of octopus, if we wanted to stick to the root language’s rules for pluralization would be octopode. So therefore, the correct plural of hippopotamus is not hippopotami. 

In the English language, there is a lot of flip-flopping back and forth with how we pluralize ancient Greek and Latin nouns. English speakers sometimes stick closely to the original root language and other times just use a more Anglicized plural. 

The History and Origin of the Word

The first time that you can see the English word hippopotamus being used was back in 1542. The word moves from Greek to Latin before it was used in the English language. This was was an alternative word from the Greek “hippos potamios” which meant riverine horse. 

Facts About Hippos

If you look back through history, there used to be many species of hippos roaming Africa. Interestingly enough they even made their way up from Africa and were scattered across Europe and Asia. The most northern hippo fossil to be discovered was in England, not exactly a place you would think a hippo would end up today. 

Currently there are two different species of hippos, the common hippopotamus and the pygmy hippopotamus. They both can be found in Africa but there is also a growing population of hippos in Colombia, hold onto that fact for a bit later in this article. In history, people thought that the hippo was closely related to the pig but now it is believed to be closest to whales and dolphins. 

Earlier I mentioned that one of the largest groups of hippos can be found in Colombia. Obviously hippos didn’t swim across to South America, so how did they end up there? Pablo Escobar, the cocaine drug lord of Colombia smuggled 3 female hippos and 1 male hippo. He built a zoo on his ranch in northern Colombia and let anyone come in for free. After his death, the hippos were left to breed and now there are estimated to be 60 hippos in Colombia. Most have stayed near Escobar’s villa but some have now started traveling to other parts of Colombia in harems, startling the citizens and getting media traction. 

Examples of the Word in Context

Summary

The English language can be a tricky thing since it is a compilation of many other languages. Finding the correct plural forms of words is an important step to becoming well educated. Now you are an expert on all things related to the word hippopotamus. Next time you need to write the word hippopotamus, you will be well prepared for everything you need to know what it is and how to do it efficiently. 

Sources: