- any of numerous small burrowing rodents of the genus Gerbillus and related genera, of Asia, Africa, and southern Russia, having long hind legs used for jumping.
- Also called tamarisk gerbil. a jird, Meriones unguiculatus, that is popular as a pet.
Origin of gerbil
1840–50; < French gerbille < New Latin gerbillus, diminutive of gerbo jerboa
Also called sand rat.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018
- any burrowing rodent of the subfamily Gerbillinae, inhabiting hot dry regions of Asia and Africa and having soft pale fur: family Cricetidae
C19: from French gerbille, from New Latin gerbillus a little jerboa
Word Origin and History for gerbil
1849, from French gerbille, from Modern Latin Gerbillus, the genus name, from gerbo, from Arabic yarbu. Earlier English form, jarbuah (1660s), was directly from Arabic.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper