February 2, 2007


feral adj.
1 a : suggestive of a beast of prey feral teeth; specifically : characterized by inhuman ferocity

• “the feral hostility of his fellow officers as they denounced and judged him -- Albert Hubbell”
b : being, characteristic of, or suggesting an animal in the state of nature
• “the human and
feral inhabitants of the forest” “as feral in her wariness as the fierce ... dogs that stalked the countryside -- Ann F. Wolfe”
c : lacking a human personality due to being reared in isolation from all or nearly all human contacts : not socialized
• “
children who had been adopted by wolves”

2 a : existing in a state of nature : not domesticated or cultivated feral and semidomestic animals”
b : having escaped from domestication and become wild “several species introduced by settlers soon became feral

Etymology: Medieval Latin feralis, from Latin fera wild animal (from feminine of ferus wild) + -alis -al--Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged. Merriam-Webster, 2002 http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com (2 Feb. 2007).

In use:

The Writing Life, Ch. 3 (1989)
Annie Dillard (b. 1945), U.S. author.

A work in progress quickly becomes feral. It reverts to a wild state overnight. It is barely domesticated, a mustang on which you one day fastened a halter, but which now you cannot catch. It is a lion you cage in your study. As the work grows, it gets harder to control; it is a lion growing in strength. You must visit it every day and reassert your mastery over it. If you skip a day, you are, quite rightly, afraid to open the door to its room.



  1. Prior to your move here, we had an uncomfortable and upsetting episode with a feral cat who would call and scowl just outside our house in the evenings. My knight in shining armour baited and trapped the wild animal. Yes, he is now one of the departed. Annenonymous

  2. "Feral" in use, Feb. 21, 2010:

    "In retrospect, it is tempting to see the Clinton impeachment as having ushered in the feral reality of politics today: the birthers, the Tea Party movement, a Congress where old-fashioned legislative victory has given way to the insatiable appetite for annihilation."

    —Richard L. Berke, "The President and the Prosecuter," Book Review, New York Times, 10.