Definition of polecat in US English:



  • 1A weasel-like Eurasian mammal (genus Mustela, family Mustelidae) with mainly dark brown fur and a darker mask across the eyes, noted for ejecting a fetid fluid when threatened.

    • ‘Adult and juvenile gerbils of both sexes give alarm calls and footdrum in the presence of an assortment of terrestrial predators: snakes, monitor lizards, foxes, polecats, weasels, humans and large ungulates.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘He said the smell was caused by polecats, which have a natural pungent odour, and the dead bird had stunned itself the previous day when it escaped and flew into a window.’
    • ‘Martin, from Wilmslow, is particularly fond of the polecat - the mammal from which ferrets evolved - and over two years he has rescued 10 injured polecats and then sent them back into their habitat to breed.’
    • ‘At heart, though, the ferret is a denizen of the countryside, a weasel closely related to the European polecat and the mink.’
    1. 1.1North American
      another term for skunk


Middle English: perhaps from Old French pole ‘chicken’ + cat.