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The bane of Australian farmers - the wild rabbit

Vermin (in some dialect regions, Varmint[1] or Varmit) 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.[2] The term 'Varmint' dates as early as the first half of the sixteenth century (ca. 1530-1540s).[3]


Spelling distinction

Varmint or varmit is an American-English colloquialism, particularly common to the American east and South-east within the nearby bordering states of the vast Appalachia region. The term describes farm pests which raid farms as opposed to infest farms: mainly predators such as foxes, weasels, and coyotes, sometimes even wolves or rarely, bears; but also (to a lesser degree) herbivores and burrowing animals which directly damage crops and land.

Although this version of the word Vermin is not a prevalent term in Standard Written English, it is a common descriptor for certain kinds of weapons and pest control situations in the Appalachian and nearby states and the American west and south-west which have adopted terms such as "varmint rifle", "varmint hunting" and "Varmit hunt".

Scope of meanings

Disease-carrying rodents and insects are the usual case, but the term is also applied to larger animals—especially small predators — on the basis that they exist out of balance with a human-defined (desired) environment, where they are normally accused of consuming excessive resources (such as feeding on crops, from a farmer's point of view). 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.

Deterioration of balance

Species can develop into vermin if introduced into regions where 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. Cats, introduced to countries such as Australia have killed more indigenous wildlife than any other introduced animal, to the extent that they have been implicated in the extinction of many small mammals and amphibians.

See also


  1. ^ "Varmint definition". Retrieved 2009-03-05.  
  2. ^ "entry for vermin". Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Britannica Publishing. Retrieved December 13 2006.  
  3. ^ Origin data on, Retrieved on 2009-03-05.

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

VERMIN (Fr. vermine, formed as if from Lat. verminus, vermis, a worm), the collective name applied to various classes of objectionable, harmful or destructive animals. To gamekeepers and those interested in the preservation of game, all animals such as the pole-cat, weasel, stoat, hawks, owls, &c., which destroy the eggs or young of preserved birds, are classed as "vermin," and the same term includes rats, mice, &c. It is also the collective name given to all those disgusting and objectionable insects that infest human beings, houses, &c., when allowed to be in a filthy and unsanitary condition, such as bugs, fleas, lice, &c.

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