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Weasels ripped my flesh…

February 9, 2013


An extremely vicious, stubborn, intelligent, capricious, smelly and downright dangerous (in this order) little beast, the weasel has always been compared to a young woman, from Afghanistan to Spain. The revelation came to me in the Kabul bazaar where a peddler had a couple of these wicked, smelly predators in cages, trying to sell them for competitions (he was explaining that they fight to death, and that it‘s very-very gory, which I readily believe).

Now, the proud Taliban call the weasel in their Pashto language (related from afar to Iranian):nawla, which is clearly, although today‘s speakers don‘t realise it anymore, derived from nawi, the bride, or the fiancée. This, in turn, comes etymologically from the old Iranian adjective nawa = new… Calling the fiancée ”the new one“ makes some sense and it is exactly what happened at the other end of the Indo-European realm, in Spain, where the fiancée is called: novia. But why call the weasel ”the fiancée“?!…

Actually, this is exactly what Bulgarians and Romanians, in the Balkans, have done, calling it in Bg. nevestulka and in Rom. (borrowed from Bg.) nevãstuicã, literally: ”the little bride“ (in Romanian rather ”little wife“). And it is plainly brud : ”bride“ in Danish!… Dangerous little creature that jumps to your throat.

Suddenly, one realises that the perfidious little thing received everywhere a sexist, tabooistic  name, given to it as if to keep away the danger. It is donnola, the ”little lady“ in Italian, doninha in Portuguese; belette in French, that is ”belle“ with a nuance of affectation. In the Slavic languages, with the exception of Bulgarian, it is laska, related to the root from which we have lascivus in Latin… And, finally, the root from which weasel itself derived has to do with something that smells bizarre… ”the smelly one“…

Now, if even the tough Afghans, who know a lot about the female nature, called the creature ”little fiancée“, everybody will agree that there is some relevance and pertinency in this.


  1. Nora permalink


  2. It’s be interesting to ask the male weasel how he feels about being called a young bride in so many languages:)

  3. What a wonderful article – thank you🙂 Your angle was really interesting as I’d never thought about the reason for the different names around the world for weasels.

    I have a site about ferrets and the rest of their “cousins” so have added the Pashto name in my page for weasel names🙂

    I have been in love with mustelids since I got my first ferret back in 1994! Not having come from a country which had ferrets around, I had no idea what they were like until I saw a pet show on TV describing them when I emigrated to Oz. Since that time, I’ve fallen totally& utterly in love with them and all their mustelid cousins but, being in Australia, I can only enjoy the cousins vicariously, since there are no others down under.

    Weasels, like so many (if not all) of their cousins, are totally misunderstood! They are called vicious and dangerous because they kill more than they can eat. What few people know is that they have to stockpile their food since they eat every 3/4 hours since they have a high metabolism.

    They are lovely little animals and – shock horror – they make great pets! Yes, people have written to me on my site telling me about their weasel pets, be they of the Least or Siberian variety.

    However it saddened me to think that the peddler in the bazaar had two of these little guys in cages to be sold to fight to the death :{ I would rather have them in the house to keep the rats and other vermin away😉

    I hope you’ll have other articles about weasels or other mustelids in Kabul and the surrounding countryside down the track😀

    Best wishes from me and my ferrets down under!


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