AskDefine | Define mice

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)]mice See mouse

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. irregular plural of mouse

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
mice in Afrikaans: Muis
mice in Arabic: فأر
mice in Aymara: Achaku
mice in Azerbaijani: Siçan
mice in Min Nan: Chhí
mice in Bosnian: Miš (sisar)
mice in Czech: Myš
mice in Danish: Mus
mice in German: Mäuse
mice in Estonian: Hiir
mice in Modern Greek (1453-): Ποντίκι (ζωολογία)
mice in Spanish: Mus (género)
mice in Esperanto: Muso (besto)
mice in Persian: موش
mice in French: Mus (genre)
mice in Galician: Rato
mice in Korean: 쥐속
mice in Croatian: Miševi
mice in Ido: Muso
mice in Inuktitut: ᐊᕕᙵᖅ/avinngaq
mice in Icelandic: Mús
mice in Hebrew: עכבר
mice in Latvian: Peles
mice in Lithuanian: Naminės pelės
mice in Lingala: Mpóko
mice in Malay (macrolanguage): Mus
mice in Norwegian: Musefamilien
mice in Dutch: Muis (dier)
mice in Polish: Mysz
mice in Portuguese: Mus
mice in Quechua: Ukucha
mice in Simple English: Mouse
mice in Sundanese: Beurit
mice in Finnish: Hiiret
mice in Swedish: Möss
mice in Vietnamese: Chuột
mice in Tajik: Муш
mice in Turkish: Fare (hayvan)
mice in Ukrainian: Миша
mice in Yiddish: מויז
mice in Chinese: 小鼠属
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