AskDefine | Define varmint

Dictionary Definition



1 an irritating or obnoxious person [syn: vermin]
2 any usually predatory wild animal considered undesirable; e.g. coyote [syn: varment]

User Contributed Dictionary



From vermin derived from vermis meaning "worm". A term usually used in Westerns about undesirable animal pests or people.


  1. A pestering animal such as one that kills or harasses a farmer's livestock.
  2. A person who is obnoxious or makes trouble.

Extensive Definition

Vermin is a term applied to various animal species regarded as pests or nuisances and especially to those associated with the carrying of disease. Since the term is defined in relation to human activities, which species are included will vary from area to area and even person to person. The term itself derives from the Latin vermis, meaning worm, and originally had reference to the vermiform larvae of certain insects, many of which infest foodstuffs. Disease-carrying rodents and insects are the usual case, but the term is also applied to larger animals, on the basis that they exist out of balance with a desired environment, consuming excessive resources. Pigeons, which have been widely introduced in urban environments, may be considered vermin, or, pejoratively, "flying rats." Some varieties of snake are also referred to as vermin from time to time.
The term is also used as an extremely pejorative characterization of a particular class or group of people as inferior and subhuman, and often considered social parasites. Application of the term can be wide, having been applied over the centuries in different languages, to various groups, and its use is usually based on a perception that the target group's views are "disease-like," or that such groups exist out of sociological balance with the common society.

Spelling distinction

"Varmint" (occasionally "varmit") is an American-English colloquialism. The term describes farm pests which raid farms as opposed to infest farms: mainly predators such as foxes and coyotes, sometimes even wolves; but also (to a lesser degree) herbivores and burrowing animals which directly damage crops and land. Although this is not a prevalent term in Standard Written English, it is a common descriptor for certain kinds of weapons and pest control situations (e.g., "varmint guns", "varmint hunting", "pesky varmint").

Deterioration of balance

Introduced species can develop into vermin in the regions where they were introduced if they find favourable living conditions, and if they face few or no natural enemies there. In such cases, humans often choose to fill the role of the predator to limit the danger to the environment. A prime example of vermin is goats on the Galápagos Islands. Rats, mice, and cockroaches are common urban and suburban vermin.


varmint in German: Ungeziefer
varmint in Korean: 해충
varmint in Dutch: Plaagdier
varmint in Japanese: 害虫
varmint in Swedish: Skadedjur

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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