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  1. a yellowish, unctuous substance with a strong musklike odor, obtained from a pouch in the genital region of civets and used in perfumery.
  2. any catlike, carnivorous mammal of the subfamily Viverrinae, chiefly of southern Asia and Africa, having a coarse-haired, spotted coat, rounded ears, and a narrow muzzle.
  3. any of various related or similar animals, as the palm civet.
  4. cacomistle.

Origin of civet

1525–35; < Middle French civette < Catalan civettaArabic zabād civet perfume; see zibet
Related formsciv·et·like, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for civet

puma, lynx, leopard, tiger, lion, wildcat, jaguar, civet, tom, cheetah

Examples from the Web for civet

Historical Examples of civet

British Dictionary definitions for civet


  1. any catlike viverrine mammal of the genus Viverra and related genera, of Africa and S Asia, typically having blotched or spotted fur and secreting a powerfully smelling fluid from anal glands
  2. the yellowish fatty secretion of such an animal, used as a fixative in the manufacture of perfumes
  3. the fur of such an animal
  4. short for palm civet

Word Origin for civet

C16: from Old French civette, from Italian zibetto, from Arabic zabād civet perfume
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

Word Origin and History for civet

1530s, from Middle French civette (15c.), ultimately (with Italian zibetto, Medieval Latin zibethum, Medieval Greek zapetion) via lost intermediate forms from Arabic zabad "civet," said to be related to zabad "foam, froth," zubd "cream."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper