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[fer-it] /ˈfɛr ɪt/
a domesticated, usually red-eyed, and albinic variety of the polecat, used in Europe for driving rabbits and rats from their burrows.
verb (used with object)
to drive out by using or as if using a ferret (often followed by out):
to ferret rabbits from their burrows; to ferret out enemies.
to hunt with ferrets.
to hunt over with ferrets:
to ferret a field.
to search out, discover, or bring to light (often followed by out):
to ferret out the facts.
to harry, worry, or torment:
His problems ferreted him day and night.
verb (used without object)
to search about.
Origin of ferret1
1350-1400; Middle English fer(r)et(te), fyret, furet < Middle French furet < Vulgar Latin *furittus, equivalent to fūr thief (< Latin) + -ittus -et
Related forms
ferreter, noun
ferrety, adjective
unferreted, adjective
unferreting, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for ferreting
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • It's no joke to see you tossing all my things about and ferreting everywhere in this way.

  • The case is one of importance and no delay should occur in ferreting it out.

    Between the Lines

    Henry Bascom Smith
  • He had not, with all his skill and cunning, her genius for ferreting.

    The Art of Disappearing John Talbot Smith
  • Of the many modes of taking the "coney," ferreting and field-netting are the most common.

    Poachers and Poaching John Watson
  • Of the many modes of taking the "coney," ferreting is the most common.

    Poachers and Poaching John Watson
  • She has been ferreting me out, like a rabbit, and making me confused.

    Dodo Wonders E. F. Benson
  • One does not court refusals; but you know his meddling, ferreting ways.

    Afterwards Ian Maclaren
  • But I want to have as little to do with spying and ferreting as possible.

  • "I'm ferreting for Mr. Soames's cheque for twenty pounds," said Mr. Toogood.

    The Last Chronicle of Barset

    Anthony Trollope
British Dictionary definitions for ferreting


a domesticated albino variety of the polecat Mustela putorius, bred for hunting rats, rabbits, etc
an assiduous searcher
black-footed ferret, a musteline mammal, Mustela nigripes, of W North America, closely related to the weasels
verb -rets, -reting, -reted
to hunt (rabbits, rats, etc) with ferrets
(transitive) usually foll by out. to drive from hiding: to ferret out snipers
(transitive) usually foll by out. to find by persistent investigation
(intransitive) to search around
Derived Forms
ferreter, noun
ferrety, adjective
Word Origin
C14: from Old French furet, from Latin fur thief


silk binding tape
Word Origin
C16: from Italian fioretti floss silk, plural of fioretto: a little flower, from fiore flower, from Latin flōs
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for ferreting



early 15c., from ferret (n.), in reference to the use of half-tame ferrets to kill rats and flush rabbits from burrows; the extended sense of "search out, discover" is 1570s. Related: Ferreted; ferreting.



late 14c., from Old French furet, diminutive of fuiron "weasel, ferret," literally "thief," probably from Late Latin furionem (related to furonem "cat," also "robber"), from Latin fur (genitive furis) "thief."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for ferreting



To search inquisitively; find by searching: ferret out the whole story

[1570+; fr the notion of the ferret as a restless and assiduous searcher]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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