Quantcast
Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary
1

ferret

play
noun fer·ret \ˈfer-ət\

Definition of ferret

  1. 1 a :  a domesticated usually albino, brownish, or silver-gray animal (Mustela putorius furo) that is descended from the European polecat b :  black-footed ferret

  2. 2 :  an active and persistent searcher

ferrety

play \-ə-tē\ adjective


Origin and Etymology of ferret

Middle English furet, ferret, from Anglo-French firet, furet, from Vulgar Latin *furittus, literally, little thief, diminutive of Latin fur thief — more at furtive


First Known Use: 14th century

Other Mammals Terms


2

ferret

verb fer·ret

Definition of ferret

  1. intransitive verb
  2. 1 :  to hunt with ferrets

  3. 2 :  to search about

  4. transitive verb
  5. 1 a (1) :  to hunt (as rabbits) with ferrets (2) :  to force out of hiding :  flush b :  to find and bring to light by searching —usually used with out <ferret out the answers>

  6. 2 :  harry, worry

ferreter

noun


Did You Know?

Since the 14th century, English speakers have used "ferret" as the name of a small domesticated animal of the weasel family. The word came to us by way of Anglo-French and can be traced back to Latin fur, meaning "thief." These days ferrets are often kept as pets, but prior to that they were typically used to hunt rabbits, rats, and other vermin, and to drive them from their underground burrows. By the 15th century, the verb "ferret" was being used of the action of hunting with ferrets. By the late 16th century, the verb had taken on figurative uses as well. Today, we most frequently encounter the verb "ferret" in the sense of "to find and bring to light by searching."

15th Century

First Known Use of ferret

15th century


3

ferret

noun fer·ret

Definition of ferret

  1. :  a narrow cotton, silk, or wool tape —called also ferreting



Origin and Etymology of ferret

probably modification of Italian fioretti floss silk, from plural of fioretto, diminutive of fiore flower, from Latin flor-, flos — more at blow


First Known Use: 1649



FERRET Defined for Kids

1

ferret

play
noun fer·ret \ˈfer-ət\

Definition of ferret for Students

  1. :  a domesticated animal with usually white or light brown or gray fur that originates from the European polecat



History for ferret

The ferret is a domesticated breed of the European polecat. For centuries the ferret has been used in Europe for hunting rats and sometimes rabbits. But both the wild polecat and its domestic relative have a rather bad reputation as chicken thieves. Appropriately, then, the ferret is, according to the history of its name, a “little thief.” Medieval English ferret (or furet) is borrowed from French furet, which ultimately goes back to Latin fur, “thief.”


2

ferret

play
verb fer·ret

Definition of ferret for Students

ferreted

ferreting

  1. :  to find by eager searching <Could you ferret out the answer?>





Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up ferret? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

looking or feeling very sad

Get Word of the Day daily email!

WORD GAMES

Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!

dog-eating-apple

Which is a synonym of asperse?

beat defame placate divulge
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ