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[fer-it] /ˈfɛr ɪt/
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.
Origin of ferret1
1350-1400; Middle English fer(r)et(te), fyret, furet < Middle French furet < Vulgar Latin *furittus, equivalent to fūr thief (< Latin) + -ittus -et
Related forms
ferreter, noun
ferrety, adjective
unferreted, adjective
unferreting, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for ferreting
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The lieutenant, his every faculty bent to the task of ferreting out the thoughts in the Phantoms mind, had heard nothing.

  • He had not, with all his skill and cunning, her genius for ferreting.

    The Art of Disappearing John Talbot Smith
  • We shall, therefore, be able to understand clearly the weakness of the soul by ferreting out the cause of the "fall" of the soul.

    Plotinos: Complete Works, v. 4 Plotinos (Plotinus)
  • It's no joke to see you tossing all my things about and ferreting everywhere in this way.

  • The detective must have found out in some ferreting way of his own.

    The Port of Adventure Charles Norris Williamson and Alice Muriel Williamson
  • Of the many modes of taking the "coney," ferreting is the most common.

    Poachers and Poaching John Watson
  • One does not court refusals; but you know his meddling, ferreting ways.

    Afterwards Ian Maclaren
  • She has been ferreting me out, like a rabbit, and making me confused.

    Dodo Wonders E. F. Benson
  • Or, he brightened momently, could he develop other methods of ferreting out information?

    Man of Many Minds E. Everett Evans
British Dictionary definitions for ferreting


a domesticated albino variety of the polecat Mustela putorius, bred for hunting rats, rabbits, etc
an assiduous searcher
black-footed ferret, a musteline mammal, Mustela nigripes, of W North America, closely related to the weasels
verb -rets, -reting, -reted
to hunt (rabbits, rats, etc) with ferrets
(transitive) usually foll by out. to drive from hiding: to ferret out snipers
(transitive) usually foll by out. to find by persistent investigation
(intransitive) to search around
Derived Forms
ferreter, noun
ferrety, adjective
Word Origin
C14: from Old French furet, from Latin fur thief


silk binding tape
Word Origin
C16: from Italian fioretti floss silk, plural of fioretto: a little flower, from fiore flower, from Latin flōs
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for ferreting



late 14c., from Old French furet, diminutive of fuiron "weasel, ferret," literally "thief," probably from Late Latin furionem (related to furonem "cat," also "robber"), from Latin fur (genitive furis) "thief."


early 15c., from ferret (n.), in reference to the use of half-tame ferrets to kill rats and flush rabbits from burrows; the extended sense of "search out, discover" is 1570s. Related: Ferreted; ferreting.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for ferreting



To search inquisitively; find by searching: ferret out the whole story

[1570+; fr the notion of the ferret as a restless and assiduous searcher]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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ferreting in the Bible

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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