Etymology
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weasel (v.)

"to deprive (a word or phrase) of its meaning," 1900, from weasel (n.); so used because the weasel sucks out the contents of eggs, leaving the shell intact. Both this and weasel-word are first attested in "The Stained-Glass Political Platform," a short story by Stewart Chaplin, first printed in Century Magazine, June 1900:

"Why, weasel words are words that suck all the life out of the words next to them, just as a weasel sucks an egg and leaves the shell. If you heft the egg afterward it's as light as a feather, and not very filling when you're hungry; but a basketful of them would make quite a show, and would bamboozle the unwary."

They were picked up at once in American political slang. The sense of "extricate oneself (from a difficult place) like a weasel" is first recorded 1925; that of "to evade and equivocate" is from 1956. Related: Weasled; weasling.

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weasel (n.)
Old English weosule, wesle "weasel," from Proto-Germanic *wisulon (source also of Old Norse visla, Middle Dutch wesel, Dutch wezel, Old High German wisula, German Wiesel), probably related to Proto-Germanic *wisand- "bison" (see bison), with a base sense of "stinking animal," because both animals have a foul, musky smell (compare Latin vissio "stench"). A John Wesilheued ("John Weaselhead") turns up on the Lincolnshire Assize Rolls for 1384, but the name seems not to have endured, for some reason. Related: Weaselly.
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bison (n.)
c. 1600, "European wild ox," from French bison (15c.), from Latin bison "wild ox," borrowed from Proto-Germanic *wisand- "aurochs" (source also of Old Norse visundr, Old High German wisunt "bison," Old English/Middle English wesend, which is not attested after c. 1400). Possibly ultimately of Baltic or Slavic origin, and meaning "the stinking animal," in reference to its scent while rutting (see weasel).

The animal formerly was widespread on the continent, including the British Isles, but in 20c. survived in the wild only on a forest reserve in Poland. Not to be confused with the aurochs. The name was applied 1690s to the North American species commonly mis-called a buffalo, which formerly ranged as far as Virginia and Georgia but by 1902 was deemed by Century Dictionary "apparently soon to become extinct as a wild animal." It has since recovered numbers on federal land. Related: Bisontine
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musteline (adj.)

"weasel-like; pertaining to weasels," 1650s, from Latin mustelinus "of or belonging to weasels," from mustela; see mustelid + -ine (1).

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mustelid (n.)

"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."

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ermine (n.)

"a stoat," especially in its white winter coat, late 12c., from Old French ermine (12c., Modern French hermine), used in reference to both the animal and the fur. Apparently the word is a convergence of Latin (mus) Armenius "Armenian (mouse)" -- ermines being abundant in Asia Minor -- and an unrelated Germanic word for "weasel" (represented by Old High German harmo "ermine, stoat, weasel," adj. harmin; Old Saxon harmo, Old English hearma "shrew," etc.) that happened to sound like it. OED splits the difference between competing theories. The fur, especially with the black of the tail inserted at regular intervals in the pure white of the winter coat, was used for the lining of official and ceremonial garments, in England especially judicial robes, hence figurative use from 18c. for "the judiciary." Related: Ermined.

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ichneumon (n.)

1570s, "weasel-like animal of Egypt," from Latin ichneumon, from Greek ikhneumon "ichneumon," literally "searcher, tracker," perhaps so called because it hunts crocodile eggs, from ikhneuein "hunt for, track," from ikhnos "a track, footstep, trace, clue," which is of unknown origin. Used by Aristotle for a species of wasp that hunts spiders (a sense attested in English from 1650s).

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ferret (n.)
late 14c., from Old French furet "ferret," diminutive of fuiron "weasel, ferret," literally "thief" (in allusion to the animal's slyness and craftiness), probably from Late Latin furionem (related to furonem "cat," which also meant "robber"), from Latin fur (genitive furis) "thief," probably from PIE *bhor- (which likely also is the source of furtive), from root *bher- (1) "to bear, carry." Also from the French word are Dutch fret, German Frett. Ferret-faced is from 1837 (to have ferret-eyes is from 1580s).
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polecat (n.)

"small, dark-brown, northern European predatory quadruped of the weasel family," noted as a chicken-thief and for its strong, offensive smell, early 14c., pol-cat, from cat (n.); the first element is perhaps Anglo-French pol, from Old French poule "fowl, hen" (see pullet (n.)); so called because it preys on poultry [Skeat]. The other alternative is that the first element is from Old French pulent "stinking." Originally the European Putorius foetidus; the name was extended to related North American skunks by 1680s.

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pop (n.1)

"a hit with a smart, explosive sound," c. 1400, of imitative origin. Meaning "effervescent carbonated beverage" is from 1812.

A new manufactory of a nectar, between soda-water and ginger-beer, and called pop, because 'pop goes the cork' when it is drawn. [Southey, letter, 1812]

Sense of "ice cream on a stick" is from 1923 (see popsicle). Meaning "the (brief) time of a 'pop'" is from 1530s. Pop goes the weasel, a country dance, was popular 1850s in school yards, with organ grinders, at court balls, etc.

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