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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. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for ferrety
Historical Examples
  • Eileen looked away from the ferrety eyes that searched hers.

  • His sharp, ferrety eyes were searching everywhere for his stick.

    The Borough Treasurer Joseph Smith Fletcher
  • He had a rubicund countenance, huge mustachios, and small, ferrety eyes.

    The Three Admirals W.H.G. Kingston
  • I remember one thin-legged, ferrety, red-haired lad in particular.

    Memoirs of a Midget Walter de la Mare
  • His eyes were black and ferrety; and his face, well seasoned by the Carolina sun, was swart as any Arab's.

    The Master of Appleby

    Francis Lynde
  • Meanwhile Pierre had listened anxiously, his ferrety little eyes shifting from face to face.

    A Gallant Grenadier F.S. Brereton
  • He had keen, ferrety eyes, a sharp financial nose, a thin-lipped line of mouth which indicated little of human kindness.

  • He had the lowest forehead I have ever seen in a white man, and such a sharp, ferrety little face.

    The Trail of '98

    Robert W. Service
  • "I provided for that," said the president, letting his ferrety eyes rest for a moment upon the reluctant one.

    Empire Builders

    Francis Lynde
  • His eyes were ferrety, his nose and cheeks fiery red, his countenance even in rest had a savage expression.

    Roger Willoughby William H. G. Kingston
British Dictionary definitions for ferrety


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 ferrety



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 ferrety



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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