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name for a number of northern species of weaselweasel,
name for certain small, lithe, carnivorous mammals of the family Mustelidae (weasel family). Members of this family are generally characterized by long bodies and necks, short legs, small rounded ears, and medium to long tails.
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 having white coats in winter, and highly prized for their white fur. It most commonly refers to the white phase of Mustela erminea, called short-tailed weasel in North America and stoat in the Old World. The white pelts are made into wraps, coats, and trimmings. The black-tipped tails are used in the United States as ornament, and in Europe they were used with the ermine of royal robes.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(Mustela erminea), a valuable fur-bearing animal of the family Mustelidae. In summer the fur is rusty brown and in winter, snow-white; the tip of the tail is black year-round. The male’s body is about 25 cm long (the female’s is somewhat shorter), and the tail reaches 10 cm.

The ermine is widely distributed in Europe, Asia, and North America; it is found in almost the entire territory of the USSR, from the coast of the Arctic Ocean to approximately the deserts of Middle Asia. The animal lives most often in river valleys, near lakes or reed thickets, but it is also found in forests, coppices, mines, and fields. Sometimes the ermine settles near human dwellings. It is extremely mobile: it swims and climbs trees. Its prey is usually murine rodents and small birds. Sometimes it attacks larger animals, such as the caper-caillie or rabbit.

The ermine mates during the second half of the summer, but the embryo begins to form at the end of the winter; the young are born in the spring. Ermines usually produce five to eight offspring (sometimes more). They are born blind and almost bare; their eyes open within approximately 30 days; by the end of the summer the young reach sexual maturity. In years when there are few rodents, the number of ermines decrease. They are useful in eradicating murine rodents. Ermines are hunted (their fur is used for decoration).


Mlekopitaiushchie Sovetskogo Soiuza, vol. 2, part 1. Edited by V. G. Geptner and N. P. Naumov. Moscow, 1967.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


fur which represents nobility. [Heraldry: Halberts, 13]
See: Dignity


winter stoat; said to die if whiteness is soiled. [Art: Hall, 115]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. the stoat in northern regions, where it has a white winter coat with a black-tipped tail
2. the fur of this animal
3. the dignity or office of a judge, noble, or king
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in classic literature ?
But I have known the forest and the free life, and that is why I resent being civilized all at once, against my will, and being made a King with a crown and an ermine robe.
** Reverse ermine (ermines)--black with white tails all over
* Ermine (ermine)--white background with black tails all over
*** Gold ermine (erminois)--gold with black tails all over
Thus, the number of mountain sheep Marco Polo totaled 18, 959, wild goats - 51,847, wild pigs - 1,906 , roe deers - 5,141, hares - 60,169, squirrels - 8,345, wolves - 3,565, jackals - 2,932, foxes - 11,697, ermines - 11,191, weasels - 17,115, ulars - 37,196, pheasants - 20,957, partridges - 284,872.
Blumenfeld-Kosinski, Renate, The Strange Case of Ermine de Reims: A Medieval Woman between Demons and Saints (Middle Ages), Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015; cloth; pp.
In this monograph, Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski shows that for Ermine de Reims, an uneducated peasant woman lacking access to the appropriate vocabulary to articulate her visionary experiences, the intense spiritual relationship with her confessor, Jean le Graveur, was essential to the contemporary understanding and interpretation of her demonic torments and visionary experiences.
The horrific demonic assaults, self-inflicted suffering, and occasional, but consoling, divine visions of Ermine de Reims, during the last ten months of her life, were meticulously recorded by le Graveur, who sheltered Ermine in the spiritual community of his Augustinian priory in Reims after she was widowed in 1393.
The next job was the cutting and sewing of the ermine tube drops.