• synonyms


noun, plural pole·cats, (especially collectively) pole·cat.
  1. a European mammal, Mustela putorius, of the weasel family, having a blackish fur and ejecting a fetid fluid when attacked or disturbed.Compare ferret1(def 1).
  2. any of various North American skunks.
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Origin of polecat

1275–1325; Middle English polcat, perhaps equivalent to Middle French pol, poul chicken (< Latin pullus) + cat1
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for polecat

Historical Examples

  • If you can convert a man by callin' him a polecat, why, call him one, of course.

    Aunt Jane of Kentucky

    Eliza Calvert Hall

  • But you must remember that a polecat is only dangerous when frightened.

  • Like others of its tribe, the polecat kills more prey than it needs.

  • Kaug, in these dialects is a porcupine, and She kaug a polecat.

    The Indian in his Wigwam

    Henry R. Schoolcraft

  • The polecat is the most exclusive of animals—the garlic of vegetables.

    The Complete Cynic

    Oliver Herford

British Dictionary definitions for polecat


noun plural -cats or -cat
  1. Also called (formerly): foumart a dark brown musteline mammal, Mustela putorius, of woodlands of Europe, Asia, and N Africa, that is closely related to but larger than the weasel and gives off an unpleasant smellSee also sweet marten
  2. any of various related animals, such as the marbled polecat, Vormela peregusna
  3. US a nontechnical name for skunk (def. 1)
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Word Origin

C14 polcat, perhaps from Old French pol cock, from Latin pullus, + cat 1; from its habit of preying on poultry
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 polecat


early 14c., from cat (n.); the first element is perhaps Anglo-French pol, from Old French poule "fowl, hen" (see pullet (n.)); so called because it preys on poultry [Klein]. The other alternative is that the first element is from Old French pulent "stinking," for obvious reasons. Originally the European Putorius foetidus; also applied to related U.S. skunks since 1680s.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper