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[pohl-kat] /ˈpoʊlˌkæt/
noun, plural polecats (especially collectively) polecat.
a European mammal, Mustela putorius, of the weasel family, having a blackish fur and ejecting a fetid fluid when attacked or disturbed.
Compare ferret1 (def 1).
any of various North American skunks.
Origin of polecat
1275-1325; Middle English polcat, perhaps equivalent to Middle French pol, poul chicken (< Latin pullus) + cat1 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for polecat
Historical Examples
  • Suppose now our new recruit had run across a rattlesnake instead of a polecat!

    Endurance Test Alan Douglas
  • If you can convert a man by callin' him a polecat, why, call him one, of course.

    Aunt Jane of Kentucky Eliza Calvert Hall
  • Indeed, the whole tribe of Weasels is well represented, and the polecat is seen there as well as the Weasel.

    Bible Animals; J. G. Wood
  • But you must remember that a polecat is only dangerous when frightened.

  • This worm occurs also in the polecat (M. putorius), in the common weasel (M. vulgaris), and in the pine-marten (M. martes).

    Parasites T. Spencer Cobbold
  • Like others of its tribe, the polecat kills more prey than it needs.

    Poachers and Poaching John Watson
  • Still, they linger while the marten has disappeared, the polecat is practically gone, and the badger becoming rare.

    Field and Hedgerow Richard Jefferies
  • Kaug, in these dialects is a porcupine, and She kaug a polecat.

    The Indian in his Wigwam Henry R. Schoolcraft
  • The ferrets commonly are treated as a subgenus, Putorius, along with the Old World polecat.

    American Weasels E. Raymond Hall
  • Thats a polecat, the cruellest and most bloodthirsty beast in creation.

    The Duel A. I. Kuprin
British Dictionary definitions for polecat


noun (pl) -cats, -cat
Also called (formerly) foumart. a dark brown musteline mammal, Mustela putorius, of woodlands of Europe, Asia, and N Africa, that is closely related to but larger than the weasel and gives off an unpleasant smell See also sweet marten
any of various related animals, such as the marbled polecat,Vormela peregusna
(US) a nontechnical name for skunk (sense 1)
Word Origin
C14 polcat, perhaps from Old French pol cock, from Latin pullus, + cat1; from its habit of preying on poultry
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 polecat

early 14c., from cat (n.); the first element is perhaps Anglo-French pol, from Old French poule "fowl, hen" (see pullet (n.)); so called because it preys on poultry [Klein]. The other alternative is that the first element is from Old French pulent "stinking," for obvious reasons. Originally the European Putorius foetidus; also applied to related U.S. skunks since 1680s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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