agile, short-legged, bushy-tailed, medium-sized carnivorous mammal in the weasel family, largely nocturnal and found in forests across the colder parts of the northern hemisphere, c. 1300, martrin, "skin or fur of the marten," from Old French martrine "marten fur," noun use of fem. adjective martrin "of or pertaining to the marten," from martre "marten," from Frankish *martar or some other Germanic source, from Proto-Germanic *marthuz (source also of Old Saxon marthrin "of or pertaining to the marten," Old Frisian merth, Middle Dutch maerter, Dutch marter, Old High German mardar, German Marder, Old English mearþ, Old Norse mörðr "marten").
The ultimate etymology is unknown. Some suggest it is from PIE *martu- "bride," on some fancied resemblance. Or it might be a substrate word or a Germanic euphemism for the real name of the animal, which might have been taboo. In Middle English the animal itself typically was called marter, directly from Old French martre, but martrin took over this sense in English after c. 1400. The form marten is from late 16c., perhaps due to association with the masc. proper name Martin.
"animal of the family of mammals that includes the weasels, badgers, skunks, and otters," 1910, from Modern Latin Mustelidae, taken as a genus name by Linnaeus (1758), from Latin mustela "weasel," which is possibly a diminutive form from mus "mouse" (see mouse (n.)), a theory accepted by de Vaan, who writes, "The use of the dim. for the weasel can be due to its small size compared with other similar animals (marten, polecat) or because it was domesticated and used as a pet animal." Tucker tentatively suggests *mus-ters-la "mouse harrier," and Klein notes that the weasel was identified in antiquity as "the catcher of mice."
also horse-radish, 1590s, Cochlearia armoricia; the common name preserves the once-common figurative adjectival sense of horse as "strong, large, coarse," as in in obsolete horse mushroom (1866), horse-balm (1808), horse parsley, horse-mussel, Old English horsminte "horse mint." The "London Encyclopaedia" (1829) has horse emmet for a large kind of ant and horse marten "a kind of large bee." Also see radish.
Some nations have used the word bull as an augmentative; the English use the word horse, this being no doubt the largest animal of their acquaintance before the southern breeds of oxen were introduced.
[The Annual Review, London, 1804]
a name for various types of small shark, mid-15c., dogge fysch, from dog (n.) + fish (n.). It is said to be so called because it hunts in packs. The wild dog was the image of sharks in classical antiquity as well, and Greek used kyon "dog" also for dogfish and sharks, especially the smaller kind.
But in the Mediterranean, among the Greeks and Romans of antiquity, closer contact with sharks had left an impression of vicious dogs of the sea. Thus, Pliny's canis marinus. The metaphor of the dog spread to the North to dominate the European image of the shark, from the Italian pescecane and French chien de mer to the German Meerhund and Hundfisch and English sea dog and dogfish. [Tom Jones, "The Xoc, the Sharke and the Sea Dogs," in "Fifth Palenque Round Table, 1983," edited by Virginia M. Field, 1985.]
Greek galeos "dogfish or shark" perhaps is based on galen "weasel, marten," which also was a fish name.