The Virginia Opossum is the original animal named "opossum". The word comes from Algonquian wapathemwa, not Greek or Latin, so the plural is opossums. Colloquially, the Virginia Opossum is frequently called simply possum. The name is applied more generally to any of the other marsupials of the Didelphimorphia and Paucituberculata orders, which includes a number of opossum species in South America.
Like raccoons, opossums can be found in urban environments, where they eat pet food, rotten fruit, and various human garbage. Though many humans mistakenly consider opossums to be rats, opossums in fact are not closely related to rodents at all, rarely transmit diseases to humans, and are surprisingly resistant to rabies, due mainly to their lower body temperatures when compared to most placental mammals .
Although it is found throughout the country, the Virginia Opossum's appearance in folklore and popularity as a food item has tied it closely to the American Southeast.