ferret

1
[fer-it]

noun

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)

verb (used without object)

to search about.

Origin of ferret

1
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

ferret

2
[fer-it]

noun

a narrow tape or ribbon, as of silk or cotton, used for binding, trimming, etc.

Origin of ferret

2
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. 2019

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British Dictionary definitions for ferret

ferret

1

noun

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 or -reted

to hunt (rabbits, rats, etc) with ferrets
(tr usually foll by out) to drive from hidingto ferret out snipers
(tr usually foll by out) to find by persistent investigation
(intr) to search around
Derived Formsferreter, nounferrety, adjective

Word Origin for ferret

C14: from Old French furet, from Latin fur thief

ferret

2

ferreting

noun

silk binding tape

Word Origin for ferret

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."

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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper