'Weasel' vs 'Ferret': What's the Difference?

By Amy Gilmore, updated on September 12, 2023

Do you want to know the difference between 'weasel' vs. 'ferret?'

Here is a quick overview:

  • A 'weasel' is a slender mammal belonging to the genus Mustela of the Mustelidae family that is carnivorous and able to prey on animals that are larger, like rabbits, because they sneak up on them. 
  • The 'ferret' is a carnivorous mammal from the Mustelidae family that looks like a 'weasel,' but it is domesticated.

Learn more about the differences between these animals in this guide which includes definitions, pronunciations, usage tips, and examples.

What is the Difference Between a 'Weasel' vs. 'Ferret?'

When it comes to the difference between a 'weasel' vs. 'ferret,' both come from the Mustelidae family, but they belong to different families. The first belongs to the Mustela genus, while the latter comes from Putorius furo. 

They also differ in size.

  • The 'weasel' is slightly smaller and thinner, while its domesticated cousins are slightly larger and broader.
  • People have kept pet 'ferrets' for several thousand years, and they are fun family pets as long as you do not mind them stealing your stuff.

'Ferrets' range in color from white to dark gray and sometimes have different colored markings on their face, stomach, and feet. Many are actually albino, so they are white to light cream with red eyes.

On the other hand, 'weasels' typically have fur that is dark around their eyes and on their tail, white or tan on the body, and lighter on the belly.

A full-grown 'weasel' can weigh as little as 12 ounces and measure just under 16 inches, while the 'ferret' is around 20 inches and can weigh anywhere from 1.5 to 4.5 lbs.

Definition of 'Weasel': What Does 'Weasel' Mean?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a 'weasel' as a noun that means:

  • Any of a variety of carnivorous mammals belonging to the Mustela genus in the Mustelidae family that is active and able to hunt prey that is much larger with dark to light brown fur that is lighter on the stomach and, in northern varieties, has a coat that turns slid white during the winter to help them blend into a lighter snow-covered landscape

It can also mean:

  • A vehicle built on a track that is an amphibious vehicle or one meant for traveling over snow, ice, and sand
  • A person who is shifty, inconsiderate, untrustworthy, or insincere

'Weasel' can also be a verb that means:

  • To equivocate or use misleading words to fool someone
  • To skip out on moral obligations or evade responsibilities

Synonyms and Similar Terms to 'Weasel'

  • Shake
  • Hedge
  • Pussyfoot
  • Dodge
  • Duck
  • Sneak
  • Circumvent
  • Elude
  • Sidestep
  • Flip-flop
  • Skirt
  • Spy
  • Stalker
  • Swindler
  • Lurker
  • Slicker
  • Snake
  • Sneak

Definition of 'Ferret': What Does 'Ferret' Mean?

The same dictionary defines 'ferret' as a noun that means:

  • A domesticated descendent of the European polecat that comes in a variety of colors ranging from albino to dark gray and belongs to the Putorius furo genus of the Mustelidae family
  • A black-footed ferret

It can also mean:

  • Someone or something that is an active and persistent searcher, hunter, or thief
  • Thin wool, cotton, or silk tape used on garments

'Ferret' can also be a verb that means:

  • To hunt using ferrets
  • To flush or force out of hiding
  • To search persistently
  • To search for and bring information that was previously hidden to light

Synonyms and Similar Terms to 'Ferret'

  • Dog
  • Snake
  • Capture
  • Drag
  • Run down
  • Trail
  • Hound
  • Track
  • Chase
  • Hawk
  • Stalk
  • Snare
  • Poach
  • Pursue
  • Course
  • Thief

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Weasel' vs. 'Ferret'

Now, let's look at how you pronounce 'weasel' vs. 'ferret.' Learning the correct pronunciation of words gives you confidence to use them in conversation, and it also ensures that others know what you are talking about.

So, here is a pronunciation guide you can refer to. 

  • Use this phonetic spelling to pronounce 'weasel':


  • Use this phonetic spelling to pronounce 'ferret':


When to Use 'Weasel' vs. 'Ferret'

I explained the difference between a 'weasel' vs. 'ferret,' but you may still be confused about when and how to use these terms. So, here are some tips.

  • Use 'weasel' when you are talking about a wild animal belonging to the Mustelidae family.

For example, you could say:

We used to have wild rabbits in our yard, but the weasels have eaten them or scared them away.

  • Use 'weasel' to describe a person who does not handle their obligations responsibly.

As an example, I might say:

What a weasel! He was supposed to come by here and help me hang the doors, but he never showed up.

  • Use 'weasel' as a verb to describe the action of being sneaky.

So, you might say:

I am watching you, so don't try to weasel out of it this time. 

  • Use 'ferret' to describe a domesticated member of the Mustelidae family.

For example, you can say:

Did you see the adorable ferrets at the pet store? I have to get one!

  • Use 'ferret' as a verb when speaking about hunting with a ferret.

As an example, you might hear someone say:

Are you going to go ferret with us this afternoon, or do you prefer to wait at the lodge for us? 

  • Use 'ferret' as a verb to say that someone is uncovering information.

So, I might say:

My friend tried to ferret out the truth on her own, but she was unsuccessful. So, she hired a private investigator. 

Sample Sentences Using 'Weasel' vs. 'Ferret'

Finally, here are some sample sentences using 'weasel' vs. 'ferret.' Reading through them will help you learn additional ways to use these terms and commit them to memory.


  • My little brother is a weasel. He is always skipping out on his chores.
  • When are you going to break up with that weasel? I don't think he will ever be loyal to anyone.
  • Have you seen the weasels at the zoo? They are adorable!
  • Weasels are small but vicious animals that can take down prey several times their size.


  • If you want to get to the bottom of this, you will have to ferret the truth out of her.
  • Ferrets are cute family pets, but they are mischievous, and they tend to steal and hide their owner's things.
  • If you are going to get a pet ferret, you need to make sure the scent glands are removed. Otherwise, your house will smell like a musty animal.
  • Have you seen my keys? I think the ferret took them again.


  • The weasel and ferret both belong to the Mustelidae family.
  • Weasels are wild, and ferrets are domesticated, but both can be mischievous and fierce.

Final Review of the Difference Between 'Weasel' vs. 'Ferret'

Before you go, let's review the difference between a 'weasel' vs. 'ferret': 

  • A 'weasel' is a small wild carnivorous mammal that belongs to the Mustelidae family. 
  • A 'ferret' is a slightly larger domesticated carnivorous animal that belongs to the Mustelidae family

If you ever need to verify the meanings of these terms in the future, you can always return to this page to review this lesson. You can also learn about hundreds of other confusing words here.

So, if you have been wondering about the meanings of other English terms, check them out now!

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Written By:
Amy Gilmore
Amy Gilmore is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. She has been a professional writer and editor for the past eight years. She developed a love of language arts and literature in school and decided to become a professional freelance writer after a demanding career in real estate. Amy is constantly learning to become a better writer and loves sharing tips with other writers who want to do the same.

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