AskDefine | Define mouse

Dictionary Definition



1 any of numerous small rodents typically resembling diminutive rats having pointed snouts and small ears on elongated bodies with slender usually hairless tails
2 a hand-operated electronic device that controls the coordinates of a cursor on your computer screen as you move it around on a pad; on the bottom of the mouse is a ball that rolls on the surface of the pad; "a mouse takes much more room than a trackball" [syn: computer mouse]


1 to go stealthily or furtively; "..stead of sneaking around spying on the neighbor's house" [syn: sneak, creep, steal, pussyfoot]
2 manipulate the mouse of a computer [also: mice (pl)]

User Contributed Dictionary



  • a RP /maʊs/, /maUs/
  • a US , /maʊs/, /maUs/
  • Rhymes with: -aʊs


From etyl en mous, from etyl ang mus, from , from .
Germanic cognates include Old Frisian mus, Old Saxon mus (Dutch muis), Old High German mus (German Maus), Old Norse mús (Swedish mus, Danish mus, Norwegian mus, Icelandic mús, Faroese mús).
Indo-European cognates include Ancient Greek μῦς, Latin mus, Armenian մուկ, Old Church Slavonic мъішь (Russian sc=Cyrl), Albanian mi, Persian sc=fa-Arab, Sanskrit sc=Deva


  1. Any small rodent of the genus Mus
  2. One of the many small rodent and marsupial species that resemble mouse.
  3. A quiet or shy person.
  4. (plural mice or, rarely, mouses) An input device that is moved over a pad or other flat surface, its movement being converted into a corresponding movement of a pointer on a graphical display.
rodent of the genus Mus
shy person
computing: input device


  1. To move cautiously or furtively, in the manner of a mouse (the rodent) (frequently used in the phrasal verb to mouse around).
  2. To hunt or catch mice (the rodents).
  3. In the context of "transitive|nautical": To close the mouth of a hook by a careful binding of marline or wire.
    Captain Higgins moused the hook with a bit of marline to prevent the block beckets from falling out under slack.


to mouse around
  • Finnish: hiiviskellä
  • German: mausen
to catch mice
to close the mouth of a hook

Extensive Definition

A mouse (plural mice) is a small animal that belongs to one of numerous species of rodents. The best known mouse species is the common house mouse (Mus musculus). It is found in nearly all countries and, as the laboratory mouse, serves as a model organism in biology. It is also a popular pet. The American white-footed mouse (Peromyscus leucopus) and the deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus) also sometimes live in houses. These species of mice live commensally with humans.
Although mice may live up to two years in the lab, the average mouse in the wild lives only about 5 months, primarily due to heavy predation. Cats, wild dogs, foxes, birds of prey, snakes and even certain kinds of insects have been known to prey heavily upon mice. Nevertheless, due to its remarkable adaptability to almost any environment, and its ability to live commensally with humans, the mouse is regarded to be the third most successful mammalian species living on Earth today, after humans and the rat.
Mice can be harmful pests, damaging and eating crops and spreading diseases through their parasites and feces. In western North America, breathing dust that has come in contact with mouse feces has been linked to the deadly hantavirus. The original motivation for the domestication of cats is thought to have been for their predation of mice and their relatives, the rats.


Mice have been known to humans since antiquity. The Romans differentiated poorly between mice and rats, calling rats Mus Maximus (big mouse) and referring to mice as Mus Minimus (little mouse). In Spanish similar terms are in use: ratón for mouse and rata for rat.
De-coloration in mice was supposedly first noticed in China by 1100 BC, where a white mouse was discovered. However, there is sufficient evidence to believe that white mice were first noticed before that.
The word "mouse" and the word muscle are related. Muscle stems from musculus meaning small mouse - possibly because of a similarity in shape. The word "mouse" is a cognate of Sanskrit mus meaning 'to steal,' which is also cognate with mys in Old Greek and mus in Latin.


Mice range in size from 5 to 7 inches (13 to 18 cm) long (including a long tail). They weigh from 1/4 to 2 ounces (7 to 57 gm). The coat color ranges from white to brown to gray. Most mice have a pointed snout with long whiskers, round ears, and thin tails. Many mice scurry along the ground, but some can hop or jump.

Distribution and Habitat

All species of Mus are native to Eurasia and Africa, where they range from lowlands to mountaintops. The five species in the subgenus Pyromys are found in Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, and mainland Southeast Asia. Much of their range originally consisted of open grasslands or grassy patches in forests.


Mice are timid, social, and territorial. They are usually active in the night time, while others, such as the harvest mouse, are active both day and night.


Breeding onset is at about 50 days of age in both females and males, although females may have their first estrus at 25-40 days. Mice are polyestrous and breed year round; ovulation is spontaneous. The duration of the estrous cycle is 4-5 days and estrus itself lasts about 12 hours, occurring in the evening. Vaginal smears are useful in timed matings to determine the stage of the estrous cycle. Mating is usually nocturnal and may be confirmed by the presence of a copulatory plug in the vagina up to 24 hours post-copulation. The presence of sperm on a vaginal smear is also a reliable indicator of mating.

As food

Humans have eaten mice since prehistoric times. They are still eaten as a delicacy throughout eastern Zambia and northern Malawi, where they are an excellent seasonal source of protein. In most other countries, mice are no longer routinely consumed by humans. Across the U.S. pet owners keep exotic pets such as snakes, lizards, frogs, tarantulas, and birds of prey. Most US pet stores now carry mice for this purpose. Because they breed quickly, grow quickly, are easy to care for, and can be sold in a wide variety of sizes, this makes them suitable for consumption by animals of various sizes. Mice also seem to be a desirable food item for a very large variety of carnivores. Common terms used to refer to different age/size mice are pinkies, fuzzies, hoppers, and adults. Pinkies are newborn mice that have not yet grown fur; fuzzies have some fur but are not very mobile; hoppers have a full coat of hair and are fully mobile but are smaller than adult mice. These terms also refer to the various growth stages of rats (also see Fancy rat).

Popular Culture

  • In the book and film of the same name; "The Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy", mice are said to be the most intelligent beings on earth and that they commissioned the building of earth and now own it.
  • Walt Disney's most well-known characters such as Mickey and Minnie are mice.
  • In C.S. Lewis second and third book the mouse character Reepicheep appears
mouse in Afrikaans: Muis
mouse in Arabic: فأر
mouse in Aymara: Achaku
mouse in Azerbaijani: Siçan
mouse in Min Nan: Chhí
mouse in Bosnian: Miš (sisar)
mouse in Czech: Myš
mouse in Danish: Mus
mouse in German: Mäuse
mouse in Estonian: Hiir
mouse in Modern Greek (1453-): Ποντίκι (ζωολογία)
mouse in Spanish: Mus (género)
mouse in Esperanto: Muso (besto)
mouse in Persian: موش
mouse in French: Mus (genre)
mouse in Galician: Rato
mouse in Korean: 쥐속
mouse in Croatian: Miševi
mouse in Ido: Muso
mouse in Inuktitut: ᐊᕕᙵᖅ/avinngaq
mouse in Icelandic: Mús
mouse in Hebrew: עכבר
mouse in Latvian: Peles
mouse in Lithuanian: Naminės pelės
mouse in Lingala: Mpóko
mouse in Malay (macrolanguage): Mus
mouse in Norwegian: Musefamilien
mouse in Dutch: Muis (dier)
mouse in Polish: Mysz
mouse in Portuguese: Mus
mouse in Quechua: Ukucha
mouse in Simple English: Mouse
mouse in Sundanese: Beurit
mouse in Finnish: Hiiret
mouse in Swedish: Möss
mouse in Vietnamese: Chuột
mouse in Tajik: Муш
mouse in Turkish: Fare (hayvan)
mouse in Ukrainian: Миша
mouse in Yiddish: מויז
mouse in Chinese: 小鼠属

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Milquetoast, baby, bantam, banty, big baby, black eye, black-and-blue mark, bruise, busybody, button, chick, chicken, chicken liver, chit, contusion, coward, creep, diminutive, ecchymosis, featherweight, fingerling, fraid-cat, fraidy-cat, funk, funker, gal, girl, glide, invertebrate, jellyfish, lady friend, lass, lightweight, lily liver, milksop, mini, minikin, minnow, minny, modest violet, nose, nubbin, peewee, poke, pony, pry, runt, scaredy-cat, shiner, shrimp, shrinking violet, sissy, slide, slip, small fry, snip, snippet, snook, tit, wart, weak sister, weakling, white feather, white liver, wisp
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