meerkat, noun

Origin:
South African Dutch, Dutch, AfrikaansShow more South African Dutch, transferred use of Dutch meerkat a long-tailed monkey of the Cercopithecidae, meer sea, ocean + kat cat; meer is sometimes an erroneous translation of ‘ant’ or ‘termite’ (cf. modern Afrikaans mier), see mierkat.
Any of several small mammals, especially the suricate: 1. (Viverridae family) a. The suricate, Suricata suricatta. b. Any of several species of mongoose, especially the yellow mongoose Cynictis penicillata and the banded mongoose Mungos mungo; cf. muishond sense 1 b. 2. The ground squirrel Xerus inauris of the Sciuridae. 3. The muishond (sense 1 a i), Ictonyx striatus. In all senses also called ant-cat, meercat (sense 1), mier-cat, mierkat. Also attributive, and (formerly) meerkatje, meerkatjie [see -ie].
1822 W.J. Burchell Trav. I. 343The holes of the Aardvark, those of the Springhaas (Springhare), and Meerkatje (Weasel), were very frequent.
1824 W.J. Burchell Trav. II. 241In the vicinity, a number of Meerkats have their burrows: these are a species of squirrel of about the size of our common squirrel.
1833 Ogilby in Trans. of Zool. Soc. (1835) I. 34The name Meer-kat..is of very general acceptation in South Africa, being applied indifferently to the present species (sc. Cynictis sp.), the Cape Herpestes, Ground Squirrels, and various other burrowing animals.
1872 C.A. Payton Diamond Diggings 38These [holes] are generally found twenty to forty together, and are the entrances to the abodes of the ‘meerkat,’ a small feline animal, something like a weasel, with a nice furry coat..and fine bushy tails.
1897 A. Page Afternoon Ride 62Meerkat skins sewn together, as pouches for tobacco.
1901 W.S. Sutherland S. Afr. Sketches 73There are three kinds of Meer-Kat. One is yellow in colour,..with pointed ears, a sharp nose, mouth and eyes like a fox...The second variety is..much brighter in colour, and striped like a hyena...The most interesting variety is the third..which in many ways resembles our home ground squirrel.
1936 Williams & May I Am Black 72He saw the wide eyes of the children peeping out of the hut entrances where they had run to cover...Like frightened meerkats.
1948 H.V. Morton In Search of S. Afr. 261Wherever there are ant-hills there is a delightful-looking animal called the meerkat, a cross between a weasel and a squirrel. He sits bolt upright, his small front paws hanging loosely against his stomach, watching the road with two large eyes ringed with black fur and set in an inquisitive snouted face.
1956 D. Jacobson Dance in Sun 156It had been Joseph who had told him stories, played with him, hunted hares and meerkats with him.
1976 E. Prov. Herald 26 Jan. 11The bushy tailed meerkat is perhaps the most common and most widely spread of the little animals known as meerkats in South Africa...The slender-tailed meerkat is the little animal one sees sitting on its hindquarters as one drives through the Karoo, the Free State, the highveld of the Transvaal.
1980 Rand Daily Mail 9 Aug. 3In most areas of the Transvaal rabies is carried by meerkats.
1987 Personality 30 Sept. 69We moved in absolute silence, leaving our horses because of the many antheaps and meerkat warrens.
1990 Skinner & Smithers Mammals of Sn Afr. Subregion 481Suricata suricatta,..In English, meerkat is often used, but as the name is applied to other mongoose species as well, suricate is more appropriate.
1994 M. Roberts tr. of J.A. Wahlberg’s Trav. Jrnls 1838–56 64Took a shot at a meerkat.
The suricate, Suricata suricatta.
Any of several species of mongoose, especially the yellow mongoose Cynictis penicillata and the banded mongoose Mungos mungo;
The ground squirrel Xerus inauris of the Sciuridae.
The muishond (sense 1 a i), Ictonyx striatus. In all senses also called ant-cat, meercat (sense 1), mier-cat, mierkat. Also attributive, and (formerly) meerkatje, meerkatjiesee -ie.

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