noun (1)
fer·​ret | \ ˈfer-ət How to pronounce ferret (audio) \

Definition of ferret

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1a : a domesticated usually albino, brownish, or silver-gray animal (Mustela putorius furo) that is descended from the European polecat
2 : an active and persistent searcher


ferreted; ferreting; ferrets

Definition of ferret (Entry 2 of 3)

intransitive verb

1 : to hunt with ferrets
2 : to search about

transitive verb

1a(1) : to hunt (animals, such 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
2 : harry, worry


noun (2)

Definition of ferret (Entry 3 of 3)

: a narrow cotton, silk, or wool tape

called also ferreting

Other Words from ferret

Noun (1)

ferrety \ ˈfer-​ə-​tē How to pronounce ferret (audio) \ adjective


ferreter noun

Ferret as a Verb

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 previously they were 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."

First Known Use of ferret

Noun (1)

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


15th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1

Noun (2)

1649, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for ferret

Noun (1)

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

Noun (2)

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

Learn More About ferret

Time Traveler for ferret

Time Traveler

The first known use of ferret was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Listen to Our Podcast About ferret

Dictionary Entries Near ferret




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for ferret

Cite this Entry

“Ferret.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ferret. Accessed 19 May. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for ferret


fer·​ret | \ ˈfer-ət How to pronounce ferret (audio) \

Kids Definition of ferret

 (Entry 1 of 2)

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


ferreted; ferreting

Kids Definition of ferret (Entry 2 of 2)

: to find by eager searching Could you ferret out the answer?

More from Merriam-Webster on ferret

Nglish: Translation of ferret for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of ferret for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about ferret


Test Your Vocabulary

Which Word Does Not Belong?

  • one green toy robot amidst many red toy robots
  • Which of these words does not mean "nonsense"?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!