civ·​et | \ ˈsi-vət How to pronounce civet (audio) \

Definition of civet

1 : any of various Old World carnivorous viverrid mammals with long bodies, short legs, and a usually long tail
2 : a thick yellowish musky-odored substance found in a sac near the anus of the civet (especially genera Civettictis, Viverra, and Viverricula) and used in perfume

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Illustration of civet

civet 1

Examples of civet in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Most of these viruses were transferred from bats to an intermediate host, like a palm civet or camel, before making their way to humans. New York Times, "Thai Caves Attract Millions of Bats — and Now Scientists Too," 17 Jan. 2021 The surveys collect samples of blood, urine, and feces from animals such as bats, pangolins, civet cats, or any other mammal found in markets, animal trade and supply chains, on farms, and in wild habitats. Larry Mullin, National Geographic, "The WHO is hunting for the coronavirus’s origins. Here are the new details.," 6 Nov. 2020 Scientists suspect the bat virus mutated to become able to infect an intermediate host, such as a civet or pangolin, before mutating again to become able to infect humans, in a process called spillover. Robert Lee Hotz, WSJ, "‘Really Diabolical’: Inside the Coronavirus That Outsmarted Science," 7 Sep. 2020 With the spread of the coronavirus, China’s government has banned the trade and consumption of wildlife such as civet cats and bamboo rats. Anna Fifield, Washington Post, "Orwell’s nightmare? Facial recognition for animals promises a farmyard revolution," 24 Aug. 2020 Most of us didn’t ride camels, didn’t eat monkeys, didn’t handle live bats or civet cats in the marketplace. National Geographic, "Why weren’t we ready for this virus?," 16 June 2020 One of the most recent was SARS, another coronavirus that spread around the globe in 2003, which was believed to have been passed to locals through bats, via civets sold for meat in a marketplace in Guangdong, also in China. The Economist, "Curbing zoonotic diseases Will wet markets be hung out to dry after the pandemic?," 26 May 2020 The National Forestry and Grassland Administration announced that 54 types of wildlife, civets included, could be consumed and sold, as long as they were raised on farms. Los Angeles Times, "Why China’s wildlife ban is not enough to stop another virus outbreak," 2 Apr. 2020 Scientists traced two earlier coronaviruses – severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) – relatively rapidly from bats to the animals that infected humans: civets (SARS) and camels (MERS). Ann Scott Tyson, The Christian Science Monitor, "Tracing the origins of COVID-19: Three questions," 27 Apr. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'civet.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of civet

1532, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for civet

Middle French civette, from Old Italian zibetto, from Arabic zabād civet perfume

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Last Updated

26 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Civet.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Feb. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of civet

: a wild animal that is like a cat and that has a long body, short legs, and a long tail
: a substance from the body of the civet that has a strong smell and is sometimes used to make perfume


civ·​et | \ ˈsiv-ət How to pronounce civet (audio) \

Medical Definition of civet

1 : civet cat
2 : a thick yellowish musky-odored substance found in a pouch near the sexual organs of the civet cat and used in perfume

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