variants or fitchew
: the fur or pelt of the polecat

Word History


perhaps back-formation from Middle English fychez, fychesse, fuchez (all plural) "pelts of a polecat," perhaps variant, with weakly stressed final syllable, of ficheux, etc.—see following;fitchew going back to Middle English ficheux, fucheus, fichouse (all plural), "polecats, pelts of a polecat," borrowed from Anglo-French ficheux, fechewes (singular fycheu) (Middle French [French Flanders] fichau, [Picard] fichau, fissieu), going back to Late Latin vissiō "foul smell from a noiseless fart," derivative of Latin vissiō, vissīre "to fart softly," of expressive origin

Note: Fitch has alternatively been seen as a borrowing from early modern Dutch vitsche, recorded in Cornelis Kiliaan's dictionary of 1599. The Dutch word—continuing Middle Dutch visse, fisse, fitsau, fissau?—is borrowed from the same dialects of French as English fitchew. The name refers to the foul-smelling liquid that the animal secretes to mark territory. Compare French putois, chat putois "polecat," derivative of Old French put "bad, nasty, vile," going back to Latin pūtidus "foul, stinking."

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of fitch was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near fitch

Cite this Entry

“Fitch.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Jun. 2024.

Biographical Definition

Fitch 1 of 2

biographical name (1)

(William) Clyde 1865–1909 American dramatist


2 of 2

biographical name (2)

John 1743–1798 American inventor
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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