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weasel

[wee-zuh l]
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noun, plural wea·sels, (especially collectively) wea·sel.
  1. any small carnivore of the genus Mustela, of the family Mustelidae, having a long, slender body and feeding chiefly on small rodents.
  2. any of various similar animals of the family Mustelidae.
  3. a cunning, sneaky person.
  4. a tracked vehicle resembling a tractor, used in snow.
  5. Slang. an informer; stool pigeon.
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verb (used without object)
  1. to evade an obligation, duty, or the like; renege (often followed by out): That's one invitation I'd like to weasel out of.
  2. to use weasel words; be ambiguous; mislead: Upon cross-examination the witness began to weasel.
  3. Slang. to inform.
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Origin of weasel

before 900; 1920–25 for def 6; Middle English wesele, Old English wesle, weosule; cognate with Old High German wisula, German Wiesel
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for weasel

weasel

noun plural -sels or -sel
  1. any of various small predatory musteline mammals of the genus Mustela and related genera, esp M. nivalis (European weasel), having reddish-brown fur, an elongated body and neck, and short legs
  2. informal a sly or treacherous person
  3. mainly US a motor vehicle for use in snow, esp one with caterpillar tracks
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Derived Formsweaselly, adjective

Word Origin

Old English weosule, wesle; related to Old Norse visla, Old High German wisula, Middle Dutch wesel
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 weasel

n.

Old English weosule, wesle "weasel," from Proto-Germanic *wisulon (cf. Old Norse visla, Middle Dutch wesel, Dutch wezel, Old High German wisula, German Wiesel), probably related to Proto-Germanic *wisand- "bison" (see bison), with a base sense of "stinking animal," because both animals have a foul, musky smell (cf. Latin vissio "stench"). A John Wesilheued ("John Weaselhead") turns up on the Lincolnshire Assize Rolls for 1384, but the name seems not to have endured, for some reason.

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v.

"to deprive (a word or phrase) of its meaning," 1900, from weasel (n.); so used because the weasel sucks out the contents of eggs, leaving the shell intact; the sense of "extricate oneself (from a difficult place) like a weasel" is first recorded 1925; that of "to evade and equivocate" is from 1956.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper