From Spanish, which see for more information.
First attested in the 15th century, chiefly in the feminine form zorra. Of unclear origin: perhaps from an unknown pre-Roman (Iberia) language, or perhaps from Basque azari/azeri (“fox”). (A third suggestion, that the term derives from onomatopoeia, is considered "far from convincing" and "unprovable".)
zorro m (plural zorros)
- fox (carnivore)
- (by extension, figuratively) fox (sly or cunning person)
- (Argentina) jack (device used to raise and temporarily support a heavy object)
- (by extension, figuratively) beacon
- ^ 2012, A History of the Spanish Lexicon: A Linguistic Perspective (ISBN 0199541140), page 39: "The initial attestations of Sp. zorro/zorra 'fox' are from the mid fifteenth century and appear almost exclusively in the feminine, employed in cancionero poetry, with reference to idle, immoral women (cf. mod. zorra 'prostitute'). […] DCECH may well be right in stating that zorro/zorra secondarily became a euphemistic designation for the dreaded fox (cf. raposo so used). […] The late initial documentation of zorro leads to the question [of] whether this word goes back to early Roman Spain or whether it is a later borrowing from Basque, a derivation, as noted above, challenged by Trask (1997: 421). Far from convincing is the unprovable hypothesis in DCECH that zorro goes back to a verb zorrar (whose authenticity I have been unable to verify), allegedly on onomatopoeic origin."