Definition of civet in English:


(also civet cat)


  • 1A slender nocturnal carnivorous mammal with a barred and spotted coat and well-developed anal scent glands, native to Africa and Asia.

    Family Viverridae (the civet family): several genera and species. The civet family also includes the genets, linsang, and fossa, and formerly included the mongooses

    • ‘The main suspect to date is the civet cat, a cat-like mammal closely related to the mongoose.’
    • ‘This includes the civet cat which is known to be a carrier of the disease.’
    • ‘So it's not a virus that every Himalayan palm civet has always had and is chronically infected with.’
    • ‘On behalf of all civet cats I have to register a protest.’
    • ‘On coffee plantations, palm civets dine heavily on coffee cherries.’
    1. 1.1mass noun A strong musky perfume obtained from the secretions of the civet's scent glands.
      • ‘During the Renaissances strong scents of animal origin, including musk, civet and ambergris, were popular, but by the late 18th century these were consider too strong, too beastly.’
      • ‘The secretion of these glands, called civet, is used as a perfume base and medicine..’
      • ‘Theatre became less serious and more sensational; the great national concerns gave way to domestic intrigue; the smell of cowslips and violets to musk and civet, if not in reality then in the imagery of the plays.’
      • ‘In the sixteenth century, for example, pungent animal scents such as musk and civet were very popular.’
      • ‘Silk, cotton, and velvet changed what people wore, and musk and civet altered the way that they smelt.’
  • 2US The ring-tailed cat or cacomistle.


Mid 16th century from French civette, from Italian zibetto, from medieval Latin zibethum, from Arabic zabād, denoting the perfume.