Definition of rabbit in English:



  • 1A burrowing, gregarious, plant-eating mammal with long ears, long hind legs, and a short tail.

    • ‘It is a patient bird, quite content to sit for hours at a time until a young rabbit, a rat or a mouse chances to pass beneath it.’
    • ‘The large, ever growing incisors in both rabbits and rodents do not undergo functional replacement.’
    • ‘The rabbit was sitting up on its hind legs, still staring at her.’
    • ‘Indeed, meat and pelts are a resource, but rabbits also destroy crops.’
    • ‘The chances of survival for South Africa's most endangered mammal, the riverine rabbit, looks even more desperate than has commonly been feared.’
    • ‘They take other small rodents, shrews, rabbits, gophers, bats, and muskrats as well.’
    • ‘Deer, hares, rabbits, mice, rats, pigeons, crows and many insects have to be ‘controlled’ in order for these crops to thrive.’
    • ‘English landowners introduced the European rabbit to the continent in 1859, seeking game animals for sport hunting.’
    • ‘Most of the animals that participate in the program are dogs and cats - the occasional rabbit and guinea pig are introduced from time to time.’
    • ‘Foxes, rabbits, harvest mice, house mice, dormice, shrews, weasels, and voles all depend on the hedgerows as a place to breed, hunt or shelter.’
    • ‘The next day she found the white rabbit still had no food or water.’
    • ‘Rodents (except the groundhog) and members of the rabbit or hare families are rarely infected with rabies.’
    • ‘In other words, the Amami rabbit has been isolated for so long from other rabbits and hares, including the volcano rabbit, that they are scarcely kin.’
    • ‘Appearances were put in by eastern chipmunks, gray squirrels, a rabbit and our new resident woodchuck.’
    • ‘They mostly eat rodents, eastern cottontail rabbits, insects, and fruit.’
    • ‘Two new extinct species are named (a rabbit and squirrel) and two of the mustelids may represent extinct new species as well.’
    • ‘Deer, rabbits and foxes came racing out of the woods.’
    • ‘Elsewhere, disappearing rabbits can signal declining health of grassland and sagebrush ecosystems.’
    • ‘After all, to a shooting man the only good rabbit is a dead rabbit.’
    • ‘The magnificent cats are taking their natural prey, such as deer and rabbits, but discovering also that sheep and cattle and goats are easier to catch.’
    1. 1.1 The flesh of the rabbit as food.
      • ‘Like lamb cutlets, rabbit joints seem to be made for holding in your hands.’
      • ‘Wild rabbit has a much darker flesh than farmed rabbit, but both are extremely versatile and, because of the price, you can afford to experiment.’
      • ‘Fuller Pinot styles go well with poached or grilled salmon, foie gras, charcuterie, rabbit, hare, boar and ham.’
      • ‘The game selection in my dish included venison, rabbit and pigeon.’
      • ‘My recipe for today is an old Australian country recipe for rabbit pie.’
      • ‘I scoffed everything my mother put in front of me - plate-sized Yorkshire puddings, meat and potato pie, rabbit and dumplings, the lot.’
      • ‘From every kitchen in the village arose the most delicious aromas: apple pies, rabbit and chicken pies, fairy cakes, pancakes.’
      • ‘I sampled a tender saddle of rabbit, wrapped in fatty Portuguese bacon and doused in a bubbly mustard emulsion.’
      • ‘Hot Cross Bunny turns out to be a recipe for curried rabbit that includes a shot of fiery Thai red curry paste.’
      • ‘Add the chicken and rabbit and cook until golden brown, about five minutes.’
      • ‘Cretan cuisine centres mainly on chicken, pork, lamb, rabbit or fish, served in a variety of non-spicy sauces.’
      • ‘The document reveals that the bishop's menu would have included a range of meats, from mutton and beef to veal, geese, rabbit, duck and lamb.’
      • ‘My other food friend was excited by the presence of rabbit on the menu.’
      • ‘The substantial plate of rabbit was beautifully tender and came with the sort of gloriously rich sauce that you can feel furring up your arteries as you eat.’
      • ‘The rabbit ballotine was so plain as to be almost unpleasant.’
      • ‘If local meat eaters all got hooked on home-grown rabbit, imagine the effect on our food import bill.’
      • ‘This weekend's patrons can expect to be served shrimp bisque or rabbit pie with bay-leaf juice.’
      • ‘Exotic meats such as rabbit, venison and wild boar are available, in addition to countless varieties of sausages.’
      • ‘Sturdier ones, such as lavender, can be stuffed into chicken or rabbit before roasting, and then discarded later.’
      • ‘My main course - confit of wild rabbit with Savoy cabbage and bacon with garlic and parsley mash - looked delectable.’
    2. 1.2 The fur of the rabbit.
      • ‘There were platform shoes, rabbit coats, sausage curls and blue eye shadow - and the women weren't a pretty sight either.’
      • ‘Typical usage is a simple trim on a hood or wrap scarf and the fur might just as easily be rabbit as mink.’
    3. 1.3 A hare.
    4. 1.4US A runner who acts as pacesetter in the first laps of a race.


[no object]
  • 1usually as noun rabbitingHunt rabbits.

    ‘locate the area where you can go rabbiting’
    • ‘Hunting with dogs would ban a number of less well-known bloodsports, like hare coursing, mink hunting, rabbiting with terriers.’
    • ‘It does, however, need plenty of exercise and will enjoy a days rabbiting, should the opportunity arise.’
    • ‘This was it, Evelyn recalls thinking, everything would go back to how it used to be; they would go rabbiting in the Phoenix Park, take trips in the car and visit the strawberry beds.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘I wanted to go out rabbiting with Oscar, but you've been gone ages and now he's gone to sleep.’
  • 2British informal Talk at length, especially about trivial matters.

    ‘stop rabbiting on, will you, and go to bed!’
    • ‘As she made her grateful escape, Mum is rabbiting on, ‘I hope she's got a good deodorant on a day like this.’’
    • ‘Some of you may remember, in the dim and distant recesses of your cobwebbed memory, that last week I was rabbiting on about my son's chums and their abundance of confidence when it came to chit-chatting with adults.’
    • ‘He answered the shop phone and an executive-type started rabbiting on about buying a laptop computer.’
    • ‘Given half a chance, she's rabbiting passionately about cultural strategies, architectural policies and the thorny problem of getting teenage girls into sport.’
    • ‘While he was rabbiting on about how we would jump off the cliffs at Barnageeragh, I slipped quietly away.’
    • ‘Our mate Robbo came over here for a few weeks last year and when he got back he couldn't stop rabbiting on about the place.’
    • ‘I'm starting to rabbit on now, so I'll stop there.’
    • ‘She is rabbiting on about antibiotics and bacterial resistance, which have nothing to do with the financial review debate.’
    • ‘She was in the kitchen when I arrived, simultaneously rabbiting into a mobile phone while watching a soap opera on television.’
    • ‘The rest were rabbiting on about share prices, company takeovers, fashion accessories, holiday destinations or some such guff.’
    • ‘There is nothing in Part 1 about pensions, schools, holidays, or whatever he was rabbiting on about.’
    talk, gossip, chatter, chitter-chatter, speak, converse, have a conversation, engage in conversation, tittle-tattle, prattle, jabber, jibber-jabber, babble, prate, go on, run on
    View synonyms
  • 3informal Move quickly; run away.

    ‘he rabbited as soon as he saw us coming’
    • ‘Carlos wants to know why they rabbited and did someone tip them off.’
    • ‘Frank, why did you rabbit?’
    • ‘I spotted him, and he rabbited and abandoned the car.’
    • ‘A rushing in the bushes to her left let her know the Doolittle boys had rabbited.’
    • ‘What had sent James rabbiting off to Bedfordshire when Mr. Turnbull was supposed to have gone?’
    • ‘I noticed another junkie watching me: he was trying to decide whether to rabbit or freeze.’


  • breed like rabbits

    • informal Reproduce prolifically.

      • ‘Yes, you would get the impression that conditions in the United States would lead to people breeding like rabbits.’
      • ‘The problem is, the things breed like rabbits, if we can mix our mammalian metaphors.’
      • ‘The only thing that keeps the system going is the ability of the prey to - for lack of a better analogy - breed like rabbits.’
      • ‘Indeed, the main reason for the continued increase in world population is, in the words of a UN consultant, ‘not that people suddenly started breeding like rabbits; it's just that they stopped dying like flies’ .’
      • ‘‘They're far less messy to keep than pigs,’ he explained, ‘live happily on seaweed, and best of all, breed like rabbits.’’
      • ‘He is trying to prevent bunnies breeding like rabbits.’
      • ‘As for those damned geese, covering our footpaths with droppings, the things breed like rabbits and, on more than one occasion, have stopped traffic as they saunter across our roads.’
  • pull (or bring) a rabbit out of the (or a) hat

    • Do something unexpected but ingeniously effective in response to a problem.

      ‘everyone is waiting to see if the king can pull a rabbit out of the hat and announce a ceasefire’
      ‘the Finance Minister pulled a few rabbits out of the hat to balance the Budget last year’
      • ‘All musicians understand that even after years of musical scholarship, in the end, composing successfully is a lot like pulling a rabbit out of a hat.’
      • ‘A tall order, in particular for the seniors, but with victory at this level long overdue don't be at all surprised if the team pulls a rabbit out of the hat in the guise of a victory that would send us careering into the semi final.’
      • ‘As if pulling a rabbit out of a hat, a brand new state of the art television centre was being planned for west London.’
      • ‘But the man famed for his patience and perseverance as much as his ability to conjure up the unlikeliest of big name signings, says he still has time to pull a rabbit out of the hat.’
      • ‘But anytime the Minister for Finance was in trouble, he usually pulled a rabbit out of the hat to ensure the books balanced close to what he had predicted on Budget Day.’
      • ‘We are striking with extreme reluctance and keeping our fingers crossed that somebody can pull a rabbit out of the hat to solve the problem.’
      • ‘The finance minister seems to have pulled a rabbit out of the hat - reducing the tax rate and keeping the fiscal deficit under check at the same time.’
      • ‘Kind of like pulling a rabbit out of the hat, only with the Supreme Court.’
      • ‘Like pulling a rabbit out of a hat, the President magically placed battlefield responsibility in the hands of the battle commanders.’
      • ‘You turn around, you got the victim's family right behind you waiting on you to pull a rabbit out of the hat and make it all good.’


Late Middle English: apparently from Old French (compare with French dialect rabotte ‘young rabbit’), perhaps of Dutch origin (compare with Flemish robbe).