any of several short-tailed, stout-bodied, burrowing rodents, as Cricetus cricetus, of Europe and Asia, having large cheek pouches.

1600–10; < German; compare Old High German hamastro, Old Saxon hamstra weevil

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World English Dictionary
hamster (ˈhæmstə)
any Eurasian burrowing rodent of the tribe Cricetini, such as Mesocricetus auratus (golden hamster), having a stocky body, short tail, and cheek pouches: family Cricetidae. They are popular pets
[C17: from German, from Old High German hamustro, of Slavic origin]

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Word Origin & History

1607, from Ger. Hamster, from M.H.G. hamastra "hamster," probably from O.C.S. chomestoru "hamster" (the animal is native to S.E. Europe), perhaps a blend of Rus. chomiak and Lith. staras, both meaning "hamster." The older Eng. name for it was German rat.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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