The word ferret was used in the English language in a 1398 translation by scribe John Trevisa because he couldn't find a word to stand in for Old French furet, with the same definition. This term, which competed with ferretto be the proper spelling of the word for a while, comes from Vulgar Latin furittum, a diminutive of fur, meaning "thief". The term was applied to the polecat in allusion to Roman perceptions of clever and sneaky attributes to the animal. Through Proto-Italic for, likely still with the same denotation, fūrtraces to the Proto-Indo-European reconstruction bher, meaning "to carry". According to Google NGrams, usage of ferret in literature over time peaked in the year 2000, but Google Trends has shown a promising uptick in 2018.
Adam Aleksic, a rising sophomore studying linguistics and government at Harvard University, has been described as the internet's sixth most famous etymologist. He also has disturbing interests in politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, and law.