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From Middle High German verhelīn, from Old High German farhilī, farhilīn, diminutive of farah (pig), from Proto-Germanic *farhaz, whence English farrow.

The -k- has been explained as an irregular fortition of -h-, which would be plausible if the form were of Upper German origin, where -h- was strong and where there was dialectal variation between -rch- and -rk-. However, Middle High German verkelen is first found in West Central German along the Rhine, where stem-internal -h- had been lost early on (compare accordingly Middle High German verlīn). It therefore seems at least equally probable that the -k- is due to influence by a related Rhenish word for “pig, piglet”, still found today in Ripuarian Ferke, which goes back to a Frankish *far(i)kīn (compare Old Dutch farkīn, ferkīn, whence modern Dutch varken), from Proto-Germanic *farhikīną, another diminutive of *farhaz.


  • IPA(key): /ˈfɛrkəl/, [ˈfɛʁ.kl̩], [ˈfɛɐ̯-], [-kəl]
  • (file)


Ferkel n (strong, genitive Ferkels, plural Ferkel, diminutive Ferkelchen n or Ferklein n)

  1. piglet; a young/immature pig
  2. (derogatory) A dirty or contemptible person
    Synonyms: Stinktier, Sau


Derived terms[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Ferkel” in Duden online
  • Ferkel” in Digitales Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache