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Ermine

or Hermine. Littré derives the word from Armenia, and says it is the “Pontic rat” mentioned by Pliny; if so, the better spelling would be “Armine.” Prof. Skeat derives the word from the French hermine, through harmo, the ermine, stoat, or weazel. The ermine is technically called the Mustela erminea.

Ermine Street
One of the four great public ways made in England by the Romans. The other three are Watling Street, Ikenild Street, and the Fosse. Germanicus derives Ermin from Hermës, whence Irminsull (a column of Mercury), because Mercury presided over public roads. This is not correct; Irminsul, or rather Ermensul, is the Scandinavian Odin, not a “Column of Mercury” at all; and Erming Street really means Odin's Street.

Fair weyes many on ther ben in Englond,
But four most of all ben zunderstond ...
Fram the south into the north takit Erming-strete;
Fram the east into the west goeth Ikeneld-strete;
Fram south-est [east] to North-west (that is sum del grete)
Fram Dorer [Dover] into Chestre go'th Watling-strete;
The forth is most of all that tills from Totëneys -
Fram the one end of Cornwall anon to Catenays [Caithness]—
Fram the south to North-est into Englondes end
Fosse men callith thisk voix.

Robert of Gloucester.

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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