weasel

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English[edit]

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A weasel Mustela frenata (2)

Etymology[edit]

From Middle English wesele, from Old English weosule, from Proto-Germanic *wisulǭ (compare West Frisian wezeling, Low German Wessel, Wissel, Dutch wezel, German Wiesel, Swedish vessla), from Proto-Indo-European *wiselos (compare Irish fíal 'ferret'), from *wis- 'musk, stink' (compare Latin virus 'slimy liquid, mud; stench', Sanskrit विस्र ‎(visra) 'musty, smelling of raw meat)'.

The verb comes from the supposed cunningness of the weasel.

Pronunciation[edit]

Noun[edit]

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weasel ‎(plural weasels)

  1. The least weasel, Mustela nivalis.
  2. Any of the carnivorous mammals of the genus Mustela, having a slender body, a long tail and usually a light brown upper coat and light-coloured belly.
  3. The taxonomic family Mustelidae is also called the weasel family.
  4. A devious or sneaky person or animal.
    • 2016 February 8, Marwan Bishara, “Why Obama fails the leadership test in the Middle East”[1], Al Jazeera English:
      Once you've gone beyond the scripted speeches, soundbites and cliches, you'll notice how the debate about leadership is primarily divided between the three governors and two senators, the other two weasels, Donald Trump and Ben Carson notwithstanding.
  5. A type of yarn winder used for counting the yardage of handspun yarn. It most commonly has a wooden peg or dowel that pops up from the gearing mechanism after a certain number of yards have been wound onto the winder.

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Verb[edit]

weasel ‎(third-person singular simple present weasels, present participle weaseling or weaselling, simple past and past participle weaseled or weaselled)

  1. (transitive) To achieve by clever or devious means.
    • 2010 (publication date), Tony Dajer, "Vital Signs", Discover, ISSN 0274-7529, volume 32, number 1, January–February 2011, page 10:
      Prisoners are notorious for weaseling day passes to get out of lockup [] .
  2. (transitive or reflexive) To gain something for oneself by clever or devious means.
    • 2006, Tony Ruggiero, Alien Deception:
      He's weaseled himself into a position where he can influence the outcome of this election.
    • 2010, Susie Davis, Uncovered: Revealing the Secrets of a Sexy Marriage, page 147:
      Within just a couple of days, she [a dog] had weaseled her way into our hearts.
  3. (intransitive) To engage in clever or devious behavior.
    • 1996, Stefan Bechtel, Larry Stains, Sex: A Man's Guide, page 151:
      Authority figures have a history of weaseling on this topic.

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