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a small European animal similar to a mouse but with a furry tail

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The word dormouse was first used in English in the early 15th century. Its origin is obscure, although given the animal’s habit of hibernating it is likely that the first part of the word comes from the Latin for sleep, ‘dormire’, probably via the French ‘dormir’.


The tiny and endearing dormouse is one of the UK’s most endangered mammals. Although the survival of this creature is not threatened worldwide, the UK population is small and declining, largely due to loss of habitat. Dormice are rarely seen since they are nocturnal and spend most of their time in trees. The dormouse is a familiar figure even to those who have never seen one because of its appearance at the mad tea party in Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’.


‘The Dormouse slowly opened his eyes. “I wasn’t asleep,” he said in a hoarse, feeble voice: “I heard every word you fellows were saying.”‘
(Lewis Carroll)

Related words

fieldmouse, mouse, vole, water vole

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.


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