Definition of ermine in US English:


nounPlural ermines

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

    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Arctic foxes, short-tailed weasels and ermines are some of the smaller carnivores found here.’
    • ‘Vikka is quick to identify the tracks of wolverine, fox and ermine.’
    • ‘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.’
    1. 1.1 The white fur of the stoat, used for trimming garments, especially the ceremonial robes of judges or peers.
      • ‘The robe is trimmed with ermine, which is the white winter coat of the stoat in northern regions of Europe.’
      • ‘He is clad in a jeweled robe fringed with ermine and his mustache and beard are immense and golden.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Do they wear coronets and ermine and incorporate rejection slips in their coats of arms?’
      • ‘The following morning Estelle awoke, still wrapped in her ermine winter robe.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘In bygone days many stoats were slaughtered to provide skins for ermine robes.’
    2. 1.2Heraldry Fur represented as black spots on a white ground, as a heraldic tincture.
      • ‘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, and a very hairy caterpillar.

    Family Arctiidae: several genera and species

    • ‘The apple small ermine moth causes more or less serious defoliation at the tips of branches of apple trees.’
    • ‘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.’


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