- any small carnivore of the genus Mustela, of the family Mustelidae, having a long, slender body and feeding chiefly on small rodents.
- any of various similar animals of the family Mustelidae.
- a cunning, sneaky person.
- a tracked vehicle resembling a tractor, used in snow.
- Slang. an informer; stool pigeon.
- to evade an obligation, duty, or the like; renege (often followed by out): That's one invitation I'd like to weasel out of.
- to use weasel words; be ambiguous; mislead: Upon cross-examination the witness began to weasel.
- Slang. to inform.
Origin of weasel
- to go back on a commitment
- to evade a responsibility, esp in a despicable manner
- 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
- informal a sly or treacherous person
- mainly US a motor vehicle for use in snow, esp one with caterpillar tracks
Word Origin and History for weasel out
"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.
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.
Idioms and Phrases with weasel out
Back out of a situation or commitment, especially in a sneaky way. For example, I'd love to weasel out of serving on the board. This expression alludes to the stealthy hunting and nesting habits of the weasel, a small, slender-bodied predator. [Colloquial; mid-1900s]