ferret out


1 [fer-it]
a domesticated, usually red-eyed, and albinic variety of the polecat, used in Europe for driving rabbits and rats from their burrows.
verb (used with object)
to drive out by using or as if using a ferret (often followed by out ): to ferret rabbits from their burrows; to ferret out enemies.
to hunt with ferrets.
to hunt over with ferrets: to ferret a field.
to search out, discover, or bring to light (often followed by out ): to ferret out the facts.
to harry, worry, or torment: His problems ferreted him day and night.
verb (used without object)
to search about.

1350–1400; Middle English fer(r)et(te), fyret, furet < Middle French furet < Vulgar Latin *furittus, equivalent to fūr thief (< Latin) + -ittus -et

ferreter, noun
ferrety, adjective
unferreted, adjective
unferreting, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
ferret1 (ˈfɛrɪt)
1.  a domesticated albino variety of the polecat Mustela putorius, bred for hunting rats, rabbits, etc
2.  an assiduous searcher
3.  black-footed ferret a musteline mammal, Mustela nigripes, of W North America, closely related to the weasels
vb (usually foll by out) (usually foll by out) , -rets, -reting, -reted
4.  to hunt (rabbits, rats, etc) with ferrets
5.  to drive from hiding: to ferret out snipers
6.  to find by persistent investigation
7.  (intr) to search around
[C14: from Old French furet, from Latin fur thief]

ferret or ferreting2 (ˈfɛrɪt)
silk binding tape
[C16: from Italian fioretti floss silk, plural of fioretto: a little flower, from fiore flower, from Latin flōs]
ferreting or ferreting2
[C16: from Italian fioretti floss silk, plural of fioretto: a little flower, from fiore flower, from Latin flōs]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

late 14c., from O.Fr. fuiret, dim. of fuiron "weasel, ferret," lit. "thief," from L.L. furionem (related to furonem "cat," and also "robber"), probably from L. fur (gen. furis) "thief." The verb (mid-15c.) refers to the use of half-tame ferrets to kill rats and flush rabbits from burrows; the extended
sense of "search out, discover" is 1570s.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Bible Dictionary

Ferret definition

Lev. 11:30 (R.V., "gecko"), one of the unclean creeping things. It was perhaps the Lacerta gecko which was intended by the Hebrew word (anakah, a cry, "mourning," the creature which groans) here used, i.e., the "fan-footed" lizard, the gecko which makes a mournful wail. The LXX. translate it by a word meaning "shrew-mouse," of which there are three species in Palestine. The Rabbinical writers regard it as the hedgehog. The translation of the Revised Version is to be preferred.

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

ferret out

Uncover and bring to light by searching, as in Sandy was a superb reporter, tireless in ferreting out whatever facts were needed for her story. This expression alludes to hunting with ferrets, weasel-like animals formerly used to drive rabbits out of their burrows. [c. 1600]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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