from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A weasellike, usually albino mammal (Mustela putorius furo) related to the polecat and often trained to hunt rats or rabbits.
  • n. A black-footed ferret.
  • transitive v. To hunt (rabbits, for example) with ferrets.
  • transitive v. To drive out, as from a hiding place; expel.
  • transitive v. To uncover and bring to light by searching. Often used with out: "Their work merely points the way for others to ferret out the core components of all proteins” ( Natalie Angier).
  • transitive v. To hound or harry persistently; worry.
  • intransitive v. To engage in hunting with ferrets.
  • intransitive v. To search intensively.
  • n. A narrow piece of tape used to bind or edge fabric.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. An often domesticated mammal rather like a weasel, descended from the polecat and often trained to hunt burrowing animals.
  • n. The black-footed ferret, Mustela nigripes.
  • n. An diligent searcher.
  • v. To hunt game with ferrets.
  • v. To uncover and bring to light by searching; usually to ferret out.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. An animal of the Weasel family (Mustela furo syn. Putorius furo), about fourteen inches in length, of a pale yellow or white color, with red eyes. It is a native of Africa, but has been domesticated in Europe. Ferrets are used to drive rabbits and rats out of their holes. They are sometimes kept as pets.
  • n. A kind of narrow tape, usually made of woolen; sometimes of cotton or silk; -- called also ferreting.
  • n. The iron used for trying the melted glass to see if is fit to work, and for shaping the rings at the mouths of bottles.
  • transitive v. To drive or hunt out of a lurking place, as a ferret does the cony; to search out by patient and sagacious efforts; -- often used with out.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To drive out of a lurking-place, as a ferret does the rabbit.
  • Hence Figuratively, to search out by perseverance and cunning: commonly followed by out: as, to ferret out a secret.
  • To search (a place).
  • To worry, as a ferret does his prey.
  • To hunt with ferrets: as, to ferret rats with trained ferrets.
  • n. An artificial albinotic variety of the fitch or polecat, Putorius vulgaris or fœtidus, said to be of African origin, about 14 inches long, of a whitish or pale-yellowish color, with red or pink eyes, bred in confinement in Europe and America to kill rats, rabbits, and other vermin or small game living in holes, into which its lithe, slender, and sinuous body readily enters.
  • n. In glass-manuf, the iron used to try the melted matter to see if it is fit to work, and to make the rings at the mouths of bottles.
  • n. Originally, a silk tape or narrow ribbon used for fastening or lacing; now, a narrow worsted or cotton ribbon used for binding, for shoestrings, etc., and also, when dyed in bright colors, for cockades, rosettes, etc.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. search and discover through persistent investigation
  • v. hound or harry relentlessly
  • n. domesticated albino variety of the European polecat bred for hunting rats and rabbits
  • n. musteline mammal of prairie regions of United States; nearly extinct
  • v. hunt with ferrets


Middle English furet, ferret, from Old French furet, from Vulgar Latin *fūrittus, diminutive of Latin fūr, thief.
Probably alteration of Italian fioretti, floss silk, pl. of fioretto, diminutive of fiore, flower, from Latin flōs, flōr-, flower.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Middle English furet, ferret, from Anglo-Norman firet, furet, diminutive of Old French fuiron ("weasel, ferret"), from Late Latin furo ("cat; robber"), diminutive of Latin fur ("thief"). (Wiktionary)



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  • I didn't know this in the sense of "A narrow piece of tape used to bind or edge fabric" until this:
    "If you remember, in the eye of the law fairy fruit was regarded as woven silk, and many days were wasted in a learned discussion of the various characteristics of gold tissues, stick tuftaffities, figured satins, wrought grograines, silk mohair and ferret ribbons."
    Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrlees, p 113 of the Cold Spring Press paperback

    December 6, 2016

  • "I have no feelings about ferrets."

    September 9, 2009

  • Parcel bare ferret up mock computer-referable crap.

    October 18, 2008

  • "There was a moment of silence on the walkie-talkie.
    'The caller is still on the line, sir.'
    Olivetti looked like he'd just been electrocuted. 'The line is still open?'
    'Yes, sir. We've been trying to trace him for ten minutes, getting nothing but splayed ferretting.'"
    - 'Angels And Demons', Dan Brown.

    February 26, 2008

  • Cricket jargon - an extremely poor batsman, so termed because he goes in after the rabbits.

    December 1, 2007