Definition of ermine in English:



  • 1A stoat, especially when in its white winter coat.

    • ‘Arctic foxes, short-tailed weasels and ermines are some of the smaller carnivores found here.’
    • ‘Predators of erethizontids include mustelids such as martens, minks, wolverines, ermine, weasels, and fishers.’
    • ‘Some ermine appropriate the burrows of mice or ground squirrels and adapt them for their own use.’
    • ‘Vikka is quick to identify the tracks of wolverine, fox and ermine.’
    • ‘If the children are lucky, a white-coated ermine may dart across their snowshoe path, and a counselor can point out that four months earlier, that fur coat was mostly chocolate-brown.’
    1. 1.1mass noun The white fur of the stoat, used for trimming garments, especially the ceremonial robes of judges or peers.
      ‘the men were dressed in costly ermine and sable-edged cloaks’
      • ‘In bygone days many stoats were slaughtered to provide skins for ermine robes.’
      • ‘The robe is trimmed with ermine, which is the white winter coat of the stoat in northern regions of Europe.’
      • ‘The following morning Estelle awoke, still wrapped in her ermine winter robe.’
      • ‘Do they wear coronets and ermine and incorporate rejection slips in their coats of arms?’
      • ‘He is clad in a jeweled robe fringed with ermine and his mustache and beard are immense and golden.’
      • ‘Her accession ceremony may not have been a coronation, but the new Queen looked sufficiently grand in an elegant white gown, tiara, and crimson and ermine robe.’
      • ‘Estelle watched with a gleam in her eye as the Duke of Gloucester marched down the aisle wearing a rich red velvet cape with a plush ermine collar over flawless white.’
      • ‘But in a gender reversal, it is Francesca, painted seductively in her ermine coat, and not the painted men in armor, who saved the castle three hundred years ago.’
      • ‘On this throne sat a very distinguished-looking man dressed in a royal blue velvet robe trimmed with ermine over his tuxedo.’
      • ‘Stockport first citizen Ken Holt, an anti-cruelty campaigner, objected on moral grounds because it was decorated with ermine - the winter coat of the stoat.’
    2. 1.2Heraldry mass noun Fur represented as black spots on a white ground, as a heraldic tincture.
      postpositive ‘on a canton ermine a lion rampant sable’
      • ‘The coat of arms of the former duchy of Brittany is "Ermine", one of very few coats that are of one tincture only.’
      • ‘The coloring scheme of ermine can also be changed.’
  • 2A stout-bodied moth that has cream or white wings with black spots.

    Genus Spilosoma, family Arctiidae: several species

    • ‘One teacher thought the caterpillars might belong to silk ermine moths, but we're not sure.’
    • ‘The buff ermine moth is so called because of its buff colouring.’
    • ‘The apple small ermine moth causes more or less serious defoliation at the tips of branches of apple trees.’


Middle English: from Old French hermine, probably from medieval Latin (mus) Armenius ‘Armenian (mouse)’.