Definition of ferret in US English:



  • 1A domesticated polecat kept as a pet or used, especially in Europe, for catching rabbits. It is typically albino or brown.

    Mustela putorius furo, family Mustelidae; descended mainly from the European polecat

    • ‘But I thought of rats and voles and moles and stoats and ferrets.’
    • ‘Cats, rats, stoats, possums, and ferrets have had drastic effects on native plants and bird species, many of which are flightless and have few defenses against the invaders.’
    • ‘You could have possums, chamois, ferrets, stoats, flopsy bunnykins and even the common cat.’
    • ‘But they also can treat pets like birds, ferrets and rabbits.’
    • ‘The other remaining pets are Zac, a black collie cross, Merlin the cat, Buttercup the rabbit and Albino ferrets Owen and Milly.’
    • ‘Domestic ferrets are generally believed to be descended from the European polecat; and they were originally used as hunting animals to catch rabbits and rodents.’
    • ‘We tried everything but could never keep up with the steady flow of dogs, cats, rabbits, ferrets, hamsters etc.’
    • ‘Opposite me sat a man with a ferret or stoat (I'm not sure of the difference) sitting in the inside pocket of his jacket, from where it surveyed the rest of the carriage as he stroked its silky head.’
    • ‘Fishers are among the least understood of the weasel family, or mustelids, which also includes martens, minks, ermines, ferrets, badgers, otters, and wolverines.’
    • ‘The predators included 13 raptors, ranging from great-horned owls to the American kestrel, and a domestic cat and a ferret.’
    • ‘Other species of animals used include hamsters, gerbils, ferrets, horses, cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, reptiles, and amphibians.’
    • ‘There's definitely a gap in the fashion market for guinea pigs, ferrets and hamsters.’
    • ‘Rats, stoats, ferrets, cats, and possums have decimated native animals that were unaccustomed to mammalian predators.’
    • ‘As mustelids - stoats, ferrets and weasels - were highly mobile and curious, it would be expected that if there were stoats on the island they would have encountered one of the tunnels or traps in their travels.’
    • ‘Cats - especially those breeding in the wild - along with stoats and ferrets, moreporks, blackbirds and kingfishers are the worst enemies of the lizards.’
    • ‘Yet nothing will deter my teams of trained stoats, ferrets and weasels from carrying out my orders and enabling me to achieve ultimate power.’
    • ‘The production will tell the classic story of Toad, Mole, Ratty and Badger trying to overcome the evil ferrets, weasels and stoats who threaten to overrun the riverbank.’
    • ‘Europeans arrived in the early 1800s, bringing with them mustelids (stoats, ferrets, and weasels), cats, and two more species of rats.’
    • ‘While most of us are all too willing to cuddle guinea pigs, rabbits, gerbils, pet mice and even ferrets, brown rats produce a reaction of almost universal revulsion.’
    • ‘The survey also featured 2,273 rabbits, 1,757 hamsters, 482 parrots and macaws, 233 ferrets, 81 donkeys and 47 newts and salamanders.’
    1. 1.1 A rare weasellike animal (Mustela nigripes), found in grassland in the US.
      • ‘Saw the article about saving black-footed ferrets in Mexico [‘New Chance for Ferrets’]?’
      • ‘These areas provide critical habitat for sage grouse, black-footed ferrets, swift foxes and black - tailed prairie dogs, whose plight NWF has brought to the forefront.’
      • ‘While domestic ferrets are common pets, black-footed ferrets, are one of North America's most endangered mammals.’
      • ‘The black-footed ferret has come a long way since the late 1970s, when many people feared that it was extinct.’
      • ‘The wild black-footed ferret, indigenous to North America, is an endangered species.’
      • ‘Scientists estimate the ferrets once occupied prairie dog towns spread between northern Mexico and southern Canada and west from the Rocky Mountains into the Great Plains.’
      • ‘The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lists the black-footed ferret as an endangered species.’
      • ‘Black-footed ferrets evolved with prairie dogs in this once-vast but now beleaguered landscape.’
      • ‘The group has worked on a number of projects including forensic searches for illegally killed wolves in Montana and presence-detection of black footed ferrets in Montana and South Dakota.’
      • ‘The black-footed ferret, swift fox, mountain plover, ferruginous hawk, burrowing owl, and other species are dependent upon prairie dogs to varying degrees.’
      • ‘In one case, at Fort Belknap Indian Reservation in Montana, plague wiped out both prairie dogs and ferrets completely.’
      • ‘Genetic diversity in black-footed ferrets (M. nigripes) declined as populations were extirpated.’
      • ‘Protecting endangered species, such as rare ferrets from birds of prey is another, wrote the researchers.’


  • 1no object (of a person) hunt with ferrets, typically for rabbits.

    • ‘Their excuse, said Mr Evans, was that they were visiting Cumbria for rabbiting and ferreting - an implausible explanation at a time when people were not allowed on to farmland because of the foot-and-mouth epidemic.’
    • ‘James has kindly offered to induct me into the wiles and ways of the shooting gent, starting with an invitation to go ferreting for rabbits.’
    1. 1.1 Clear (a hole or area of ground) of rabbits with ferrets.
      • ‘We ferreted several warrens, and thus several breeding groups, in each capture area.’
      • ‘I just ferreted this hole as I wanted to find out where all the bolt holes were before I gassed it, and as I had the nets in my pocket I thought ...why not!’
    2. 1.2with adverbial of place Look around in a place or container in search of something.
      ‘he went to the desk and ferreted around’
      • ‘Goldman ferrets through the dirty laundry of the movie business and examines the stains (including his own) with forensic detail.’
      • ‘What we don't need is a witch hunt against the American people, ferreting through their private lives or detaining them because of their ethnicity.’
      • ‘I had ferreted around my closet for a CD that seemed mildly interesting to me, since most of my music was on my laptop, and I was disgusted with the failed search.’
      • ‘Two grown adults ferreting among the shrubbery, shaking various boxes of favourite food and calling daft pet names into the darkness… to no avail.’
      • ‘He was ferreting around for his cash when one of them allegedly spotted a bobby on patrol, and as he made himself look inconspicuous they swapped the laptop case for another.’
      • ‘But one night, a woolly-hatted youth ferreted around in the skip and extracted the ancient rucksack.’
      • ‘Bourne ferrets ceaselessly away through all this, uncloseting all sorts of complex CIA skeletons that would - and did - take a thick Robert Ludlum novel to detail.’
      • ‘When the food supplies dwindled, they ferreted around for root vegetables, insects and anything else that can be eaten.’
      • ‘There's the Smoking Gun, which ferrets around to find court documents and police mugshots relating to major, usually celebrity-related cases.’
      • ‘I looked down at the little ashtray on his gold coloured hostess trolley, two lonely pound coins looked back up at me, so i ferreted around in my pocket for something smaller.’
      • ‘This is not the way search engines work right now, where they generally search for phrases or words in the entire content of the pages they can see, ferreting around in more of a rummage than a skilled and honed inquiry.’
      • ‘They had a cleaning lady come and clean most of the time, and Sara was always ferreting around, trying to make the house look like an interior designing magazine, which again made me mad.’
      • ‘Katherine and Kyla ferreted around the racks looking for good clothes.’
      rummage, search about, scrabble around, feel around, grope around, forage around, fish about, fish around, poke about, poke around, scratch about, scratch around, delve, dig, hunt
      View synonyms
    3. 1.3ferret something outwith object Search tenaciously for and find something.
      ‘she had the ability to ferret out the facts’
      • ‘Media organizations, having decided that Levy's disappearance is a major story, should explore every lead to ferret out the truth.’
      • ‘So the issues don't get driven by the elected officials inside the institution, and I think that's one of the reasons that the press doesn't necessarily ferret them out.’
      • ‘Directors always see something in you that you have to kind of ferret out, in a way.’
      • ‘The good folks at the American Physical Society have noticed this, and have even initiated a contest to help ferret out the reason for the equation's appearance.’
      • ‘As Abberline ferrets out evidence, he discovers a method to the murderer's madness, and far-reaching implications that could topple Queen Victoria's throne.’
      • ‘Each day he and his small team ferret out the wholesale price of produce, a difficult task, given that transactions between producers and wholesalers aren't disclosed and prices aren't displayed.’
      • ‘On behalf of the ordinary reader, you feel he will ferret out the truth if anyone can.’
      • ‘The media generally ignore them - and only the most motivated consumers ferret out the facts about what ought to be as natural as a walk in the garden.’
      • ‘Mr Smith then visited Saudi Arabia twice trying to ferret the truth out of the authorities.’
      • ‘But Sid wasn't really the type that offered up information easily, preferring to have his barmates ferret it out of him.’
      • ‘But the more answers the couple have ferreted out, the more questions are raised.’
      • ‘Even if you don't like the story, you have to respect his sheer investigative skill in ferreting it out.’
      • ‘If there's a story that has any connection with the Super Bowl, it will be ferreted out by 3,000 newspaper, radio and TV people.’
      • ‘As if any time spent by reporters ferreting out the truth - and by Congress overseeing - would otherwise be spent tossing sandbags on the levee, disinfecting the Superdome, or driving evacuees to Houston.’
      • ‘An avalanche forecaster ferrets out a dangerous weakness in the snowpack with the shovel shear test.’
      • ‘And everybody knows that they do it, and you try to ferret it out, because we're supposed to try to find things based upon the truth.’
      • ‘Usually, the prices it ferrets out are cheaper than if you book through the hotel itself.’
      • ‘Rather than analyse the dust of previous centuries, Ferriter ferrets out the more obvious origins of the world we inhabit.’
      • ‘The actual story is fairly clichéd, and the final twist can be easily ferreted out by observant viewers, but the fun in The Ghost is in getting there.’
      • ‘The team ferreting out information on Grace Kelly is, in the words of one Enquirer reporter, the ‘best investigative team of journalists anybody had seen for a century.’’
      unearth, uncover, discover, detect, search out, elicit, bring to light, bring into the open, reveal, get at, run to earth, track down, turn up, dig up, dig out, root out, hunt out, fish out, nose out, sniff out
      View synonyms


Late Middle English: from Old French fuiret, alteration of fuiron, based on late Latin furo ‘thief, ferret’, from Latin fur ‘thief’.