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ferret1

[fer-it]
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noun
  1. a domesticated, usually red-eyed, and albinic variety of the polecat, used in Europe for driving rabbits and rats from their burrows.
  2. black-footed ferret.
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verb (used with object)
  1. 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.
  2. to hunt with ferrets.
  3. to hunt over with ferrets: to ferret a field.
  4. to search out, discover, or bring to light (often followed by out): to ferret out the facts.
  5. to harry, worry, or torment: His problems ferreted him day and night.
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verb (used without object)
  1. to search about.
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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 formsfer·ret·er, nounfer·ret·y, adjectiveun·fer·ret·ed, adjectiveun·fer·ret·ing, adjective

ferret2

[fer-it]
noun
  1. a narrow tape or ribbon, as of silk or cotton, used for binding, trimming, etc.
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Origin of ferret2

1570–80; alteration of Italian fioretto floss silk, literally, little flower, equivalent to fior(e) (< Latin flōrem; see flower) + -etto -et
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for ferret

ferret1

noun
  1. a domesticated albino variety of the polecat Mustela putorius, bred for hunting rats, rabbits, etc
  2. an assiduous searcher
  3. black-footed ferret a musteline mammal, Mustela nigripes, of W North America, closely related to the weasels
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verb -rets, -reting or -reted
  1. to hunt (rabbits, rats, etc) with ferrets
  2. (tr usually foll by out) to drive from hidingto ferret out snipers
  3. (tr usually foll by out) to find by persistent investigation
  4. (intr) to search around
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Derived Formsferreter, nounferrety, adjective

Word Origin

C14: from Old French furet, from Latin fur thief

ferret2

ferreting

noun
  1. silk binding tape
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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

Word Origin and History for ferret

n.

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."

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v.

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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper