Word of the Day

groundhog

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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter

Definition

a small furry animal with short legs that is found in North America

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.



Origin and usage

The noun groundhog was first recorded in English in the late 18th century. It is a compound noun formed from the nouns ‘ground’ and ‘hog’, another word for a pig that is also used in the names of other types of animals, such as the hedgehog.

Examples

In the US and Canada 2 February is Groundhog Day. A groundhog, also called a woodchuck, is a type of burrowing rodent of the marmot genus. According to a folk tradition originating among the German communities in Pennsylvania,  the groundhog emerges from hibernation on this day to see if the sun is out, causing it to cast a shadow. If the groundhog sees its shadow, it returns to its burrow because it knows there will be six more weeks of winter. If no shadow is cast then it stays above ground and the weather is sure to be mild. Groundhog Day has a long history; the first recorded reference to it dates from the mid 19th century. The custom of observing groundhogs’ behaviour on 2 February became widely known thanks to the 1993 romantic comedy Groundhog Day, set in the Pennsylvania town of Punxsutawney, home of the best-known celebration. Large crowds now gather there every year to see whether ‘Punxsutawney Phil’ emerges to check his shadow or not. Groundhog Day has become a popular way of referring to a situation that repeatedly occurs in exactly the same way, as in the plot of the film.

Quotations

“There is no way that this winter is ever going to end as long as this groundhog keeps seeing his shadow.”
(Bill Murray as Phil Connors in Groundhog Day)

When you find yourself needing the phrase This is like “Groundhog Day” to explain how you feel, a movie has accomplished something.
(Roger Ebert)

Related words

beaver, gopher, muskrat, raccoon

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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