• synonyms


noun, plural musk·rats, (especially collectively) musk·rat.
  1. a large, aquatic, North American rodent, Ondatra zibethica, having a musky odor.
  2. its thick, light-brown fur, used for coats, for hats, as a trimming, etc.
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Origin of muskrat

1680–90, Americanism; alteration, by folk etymology, of musquash
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for muskrat


noun plural -rats or -rat
  1. a North American beaver-like amphibious rodent, Ondatra zibethica, closely related to but larger than the voles: family Cricetidae
  2. the brown fur of this animal
  3. either of two closely related rodents, Ondatra obscurus or Neofiber alleni (round-tailed muskrat)
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Often (informal) shortened to: musquash

Word Origin

C17: by folk etymology, from the same source as musquash
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 muskrat


also musk-rat, 1610s, alteration (by association with musk and rat) of musquash, from Algonquian (probably Powhatan) muscascus, literally "it is red," so called for its colorings. From cognate Abenaki muskwessu comes variant form musquash (1620s).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper