|Quark, a Ferengi male (2376)|
|Zek, an older Ferengi male (2370)|
|Pel, a Ferengi female (2370)|
|Ishka, an older Ferengi female (2371)|
"Neither would I. But once you accept that, you'll find they can be a lot of fun."
The Ferengi were a warp capable humanoid species from the Alpha Quadrant. They originated from planet Ferenginar. Ferengi civilization was built on a caricature of free enterprise, where earning profit was the sole meaningful goal in life, superseding all other endeavors.
The Ferengi governing body, known as the Ferengi Alliance, was formed over a period of ten thousand years, beginning with the establishment of a system of currency, to their purchase of warp technology, and finally to its state in the 24th century. (DS9: "Little Green Men")
On average, Ferengi were shorter than Humans. They had orange-brown colored skin, blue fingernails, enlarged skulls, wrinkled noses, and sharp teeth. Internally, they had ascending ribs and upper and lower lungs, as well as an unusual four-lobed brain that could not be read by telepathic species such as Betazoids, although Counselor Troi was able to detect "deception" and "danger" from the Ferengi Bok. (DS9: "Bar Association"; TNG: "The Battle"; TNG: "The Price"; TNG: "The Last Outpost") Ferengi physiology was similar to that of the Dopterians, of which they were distant relatives.
The Ferengi's most distinguishing feature was their large ears (called "lobes"), which gave them extremely acute hearing, sensitive enough to tell a person's species and gender, even through electronic distortion (DS9: "The Darkness and the Light"), atmospheric/altitude changes (DS9: "Starship Down"), and the decibel level of a sound (DS9: "The Way of the Warrior"). The lobes of the Ferengi male were larger than those of females. The sensitivity of the ears, while providing great sensual pleasure, also made them vulnerable to pain and other problems, including severe infections of the tympanic membrane which, if left untreated, can become fatal. (DS9: "Bar Association")
The Ferengi generally referred to Humans as "Hew-mons" (pronounced "hyoo-mons"). There were exceptions to this, like Sovak who addressed Jean-Luc Picard several times as "Human" rather than "Hew-mon". (TNG: "Captain's Holiday")
Ferengi blood pressure was much higher that of Humans. When Nog, Rom, and Quark were sent back to 1947 and analyzed by Human doctors, one of the medics commented on Quark's blood pressure, "Two fifty over one sixty seven. If you were human, I'd say you were due for a heart attack" (DS9: "Little Green Men") Ferengi blood contained cells called pyrocytes. (TNG: "The Perfect Mate")
Otherwise, the Ferengi appeared to have a rather strong immune system. Quark was one of a very few members of the station's crew unaffected by the aphasia virus that struck Deep Space 9 in 2369. This may also have been due to the fact that Ferengi brains are very different from those of other humanoids. (DS9: "Babel")
Ferengi were known to have lifespans that could exceed one hundred years. Following a cosmetic procedure performed on Vulcan, Ishka commented that her lobes hadn't felt so firm in a century. (DS9: "The Magnificent Ferengi")
When startled, frightened or in pain, Ferengi often emitted a high-pitched scream. (DS9: "Little Green Men", "The Siege of AR-558", "The Circle") Some Ferengi demonstrated a hissing reaction when threatened or in distress not unlike an Earth cat. (DS9: "Sanctuary")
Society and culture Edit
Cultural development Edit
The Ferengi culture was centralized around the concept of greed and profit earning. As Quark once put it, "there is nothing beyond greed. Greed is the purest, most noble of emotions." Finally, the 10th Rule of Acquisition states that "greed is eternal." (DS9: "Prophet Motive")
However, the Ferengi managed to avoid many of the worst aspects of an evolving culture and their social history was notable for the absence of atrocities such as slavery or genocide, a distinction the Ferengi felt made them morally superior (though their definition of "slavery" clearly did not extend to their treatment of women). Ferengi culture slowly grew out of its early stages by introducing a remarkable economic system that developed from early bartering systems to become one of the leading cultures in interstellar commerce. (DS9: "The Jem'Hadar", "Little Green Men")
Unlike most other cultures who frequently idolize warriors or politicians, businessmen were the pillars of Ferengi society for millennia. This tendency led to the slow merging of business and political fields in Ferengi culture and that influence was evident in the near universal application of the Rules of Acquisition as both a personal and financial code of ethics.
The Rules of Acquisition provided advice that all good Ferengi follow in order to lead a profitable life. For example, the first Rule of Acquisition was "Once you have their money, you never give it back".
In addition to the Rules, the Ferengi also recognized the Five Stages of Acquisition: infatuation, justification, appropriation, obsession, and resale. (VOY: "Alice") They also recognized these traits in other species; Earth's Wall Street was regarded with near-religious reverence by Ferengi. (VOY: "11:59")
The drive for individual gain in Ferengi society led to inventions that spread across many species of the galaxy. Examples included such diverse items as holosuites, synthehol, and the popular drink, Slug-o-Cola. (DS9: "Profit and Lace", "Body Parts")
The social norm of acquisition made Ferengi with other motivations remarkable to their peers. Leck announced he "didn't care about latinum" and sought only the thrill of the kill, and was described by Quark as an "Eliminator" whose "priorities are different" from "typical Ferengi"; Nog agreed with the assessment, and Brunt later described Leck as a "psychopath". (DS9: "The Magnificent Ferengi")
Role of Women Edit
Ferengi women were referred to as "females". They were barred from most aspects of society, such as not being allowed to earn profit, or to travel. They were not even allowed to wear clothes and were expected to be undressed at all times. "Thinking about things", as Quark once put it, was not something either expected nor desired by females. Neither was having opinions or political views. They further were not allowed to have any claim to the estate of a husband should the marriage end, as all females were generally required to sign a waiver of property and profit giving up any such claim. (DS9: "Ferengi Love Songs")
Laws and traditional social values relegated females to the level of property. Women had no valued role in society apart from the propagation of male heirs.
If a woman was caught earning profit, she was forced to give back all she had earned and either sign a confession admitting the error of her ways or sold to indentured servitude if she refused. Her male relatives would then have to make restitution. (DS9: "Family Business")
Marriage, like everything else in Ferengi culture, was a business contract, signed between the prospective groom and the bride's father, in which the father leased his daughter to the groom for a set period (usually five years) for an agreed fee, paid on the birth of a son. (DS9: "Doctor Bashir, I Presume") Pregnancies are considered rentals under Ferengi law. (DS9: "Nor the Battle to the Strong")
In addition to being forbidden to earn profit and own property, Ferengi females were not allowed to wear clothes, leave their homes without male escort, or speak to males they were not related to. Their role as caregiver to the male children of a family was strictly defined. Mothers were expected to teach their children the Rules of Acquisition, and to soften their male children's food by chewing it for them. (TNG: "The Last Outpost", "Ménage à Troi"; DS9: "Life Support", "Family Business") Because of this, Ferengi males were often very protective and loving of their mothers, and this was even reflected in the Rules of Acquisition; Rule 31 was "Never make fun of a Ferengi's Mother" (DS9: The Siege)
By the late 24th century, females made up 53.5% of the Ferengi population and some Ferengi began to realize that exclusion of females from business represented a significant loss of profit opportunities. A movement, led by Ishka, Quark's mother, and Zek, aimed at reforming cultural traditions that had excluded women was started in latter half of the 24th century, starting by giving females the right to wear clothing. The idea was that giving females the right to wear clothing allows them to have pockets. Once they have pockets, they were going to want to fill them with latinum, which means they were going to need jobs. Once they start earning latinum they were going to want to spend it, which meant Ferenginar would expand its workforce and consumer base at the same time. Initial progress toward this goal seemed less than promising, but by 2375 with the ascension of the progressive Rom to the position of Grand Nagus the likelihood of further reforms seemed inevitable. (DS9: "Profit and Lace", "The Dogs of War")
Because of the long-standing ban on acquisition of profit by females, any female wishing to engage in commerce had to either bury evidence of her involvement in a transaction or appear as a male. Notably, Pel not only altered the manner of her attire, but also disguised her breasts and the size of her lobes in order to be included in Quark's financial decision-making. Using this disguised appearance, she was involved in the first recorded business transaction between the Alpha and Gamma Quadrants. A contract would likely not have been concluded without her input, making it, at the time, the most significant financial achievement by a Ferengi female. (DS9: "Rules of Acquisition") Her skill in successfully negotiating the contract between the Ferengi and the Karemma would later have a profound impact on the entire Alpha Quadrant. It proved the basis by which the Federation made First Contact with the Founders, which would in turn lead to the Dominion War. (DS9: "The Search, Part I")
Quark himself would later be involved in an even more significant instance of cross-dressing, one which would fundamentally alter the nature of Ferengi society. Grand Nagus Zek – as influenced by Quark's mother, Ishka – attempted to give women the right to wear clothes. He was immediately displaced from power by Brunt, and forced to set up a government-in-exile on Deep Space 9. While there, Zek tried to convince top Ferengi businessmen to join him for a conference to demonstrate the intelligence of women, using Ishka as his exemplar. When she collapsed after suffering a heart attack, Quark had to fake being the female, "Lumba", so as to impress Nilva, the ultra-conservative manufacturer of Slug-o-Cola. It being decided that simple cross dressing was insufficient, Quark received gender reassignment surgery for the occasion which was reversed afterwords. Quark's "Lumba" sufficiently influenced Nilva to call for, and get, the immediate reinstatement of Zek as Nagus. Zek's women's rights agenda therefore continued. (DS9: "Profit and Lace")
Rituals and traditions Edit
The Ferengi Attainment Ceremony was the time in Ferengi tradition that an individual becomes old enough to make his own decisions. A young Ferengi that was about to embark on his first significant business opportunity might auction off personal items that have strong sentimental value in order to raise capital for his venture. (DS9: "Heart of Stone", "Little Green Men")
Ferengi greeted one another by putting their wrists together, hands apart, and fingers curled inward, equivalent to the old Human custom of shaking hands (the natives of Gamma Trianguli VI have an almost identical gesture); Jadzia Dax and Quark regularly greeted one another in this manner. On the other hand, when agreeing upon a deal, the two Ferengi placed the back of one hand against that of the other, and pulled it away to the side quickly, as if to signify mutual distrust and understanding. (DS9: "Business as Usual", "The Magnificent Ferengi")
A Ferengi acting in some form of service or submission was commonly known to bow very slightly, face up, and made the same hand gesture used in greetings. The cultural connotations of displaying open hands were echoed again in the "obscene" gesture of a person waving empty hands above his head. (TNG: "The Last Outpost"; DS9: "The Emperor's New Cloak")
A Ferengi entering another Ferengi's home was required to pay an admission fee of one slip of latinum per person. One was also required to sign a waiver acknowledging responsibility in the event that something went missing following one's visit. A traditional greeting in such situations had the resident Ferengi welcoming the visitor to his home and reminding him that "My house is my house", to which the visitor replied "As are its contents". (DS9: "Family Business")
The Ferengi had a legal tradition called plea bargaining. If a Ferengi required something, especially of importance, that had been taken by another individual, the Ferengi could give something that the individual requires in order to have their item returned. (DS9: "Emissary")
Traditional Ferengi cuisine consisted largely of slugs, insects, grubs, and other creatures Humans would call "bugs". Many partook in the beetle snuff habit, snorting a fine powder of dried beetles. In one instance, Jake Sisko told Nog that he was helping his girlfriend who was studying to become an entomologist, to which Nog replied "What's an entomologist?" Jake explained that it was "someone who studies bugs." Nog, misunderstanding the science, replied "Ohhh!, she wants to become a chef!" However, only native bugs were considered edible, and foreign (off-planet) bugs are treated with disdain. (DS9: "Sanctuary")
According to traditional Ferengi beliefs, the hammer represented sexual prowess. (TNG: "Birthright, Part I") Actual sexual practices of Ferengi were not well known but oo-mox, manual stimulation of the lobes, was widely practiced and could be performed by non-Ferengi. In accordance with their male-dominated society it was not unusual for a Ferengi to have female servants who would perform oo-mox for him in public as a means of pleasure and to communicate his status by overtly demonstrating that he can afford such luxuries. (TNG: "Ménage à Troi"; DS9: "The Nagus")
Appropriately for a materially obsessed species, the Ferengi demonstrated interest in cosmetic enhancements by way of tooth sharpeners and surgical procedures such as lobe enlargements to accompany the usual conspicuous displays of wealth. (DS9: "Little Green Men", "Family Business")
Main article: Ferengi language
The Ferengi written language resembled a flow chart in appearance with 60 degree angles and text most commonly emanating outward from a central hexagon. The hexagon might remain fixed, possibly denoting subject or tense, as the text around it flowed, branched, expanded, and changed. (DS9: "Family Business")
Because of the extremely rainy climate of their homeworld the Ferengi had 178 different words for rain in all its various forms. Conversely there were no Ferengi words for crispy, as the condition is largely unknown to them. (DS9: "Let He Who Is Without Sin...")
Ferengi military personnel wore uniforms that underwent a major change in style between 2364 and 2365. Many Ferengi males wore a headdress which consisted of a cloth wrapped around the back of the head. The name and purpose of this item was unknown. After Nog and Rom joined Starfleet and the Bajoran Militia respectively, they wore headdresses in materials and colors that matched their uniforms.
Ferengi Education employs a work study approach with apprenticeships in a wide range of business and economic fields, throwing students into the cutthroat competition of Ferengi commerce, and anyone who survives, graduates. (DS9: "A Man Alone")
Mirror universe Edit
The Ferengi of the mirror universe were, for the most part, seen as far more compassionate and less greedy than their counterparts in the "prime" universe, often paying for this compassion with their lives. They were oppressed by the Klingon-Cardassian Alliance during the 2370s and many Ferengi are aligned with the Terran Rebellion. (DS9: "Crossover")
In Ferengi philosophy, the pursuit of profit at any cost was the guiding principle for all traditional Ferengi. With the invention of currency and the concept of profit approximately 10,000 years ago Ferengi philosophy began to evolve toward the pursuit of material wealth. This guiding principle became so basic to Ferengi that it was eventually codified in the Rules of Acquisition.
Greed, deceit, distrust, and opportunism were highly prized values among Ferengi and all were represented within the Rules. The Ferengi belief in conducting all business dealings under the advisory caveat-emptor, or "buyer beware", further reflected the pursuit of profit at all costs. (TNG: "The Last Outpost")
Though slavery (of men) was unknown in Ferengi society, exploitation was the rule. The formation of labor unions was forbidden, and indeed most Ferengi did not wish to eradicate exploitation but to become the exploiters. (DS9: "Bar Association")
If profit represented the ultimate goal to Ferengi, the loss of profit opportunity represented the ultimate punishment. Ferengi who broke the law could be punished with the loss of all property and assets. If the crime was deemed severe enough the offending Ferengi's family could also suffer loss of profit opportunity, and could even be sold into indentured servitude to repay their debts - both literal and philosophical. The binding nature of contracts was considered a supreme law in Ferengi society and breaking a contract with a fellow Ferengi was a severe crime. (DS9: "Family Business", "Body Parts")
Capital punishment was not unknown among Ferengi but perhaps even more feared was revocation of a Ferengi's business license. Such an action prohibited other Ferengi from conducting business with the offender and virtually ostracized a Ferengi from his own society, leaving him with so few opportunities for true profit that death might be preferable. (DS9: "Body Parts") Should capital punishment become necessary (such as for going on strike), the preferred method is defenestration from the top of the Tower of Commerce. Not only is the forty-story descent effective, but it allows those in the Sacred Marketplace below opportunities to place wagers on where the condemned will land. (DS9: "Bar Association")
Regard for profit above all else, including life, was also evident in the Ferengi attitude toward dealing in weapons and other military technology. Though the galaxy abounded in weapons dealers, the Ferengi had an approving attitude toward the profession. (TNG: "The Perfect Mate"; DS9: "Business as Usual") Similarly, the Ferengi attitude toward personal liberty was superseded by desire for profit. Despite, or perhaps because of, never having endured slavery themselves Ferengi showed themselves willing to engage in slave-trading and the capturing of aliens for slave labor if profitable. (ENT: "Acquisition", TNG: "Rascals")
The Ferengi cultural emphases upon profit and wealth extended to spirituality, leading to a fairly robust and detailed religious life, even if the central philosophy behind the religion was relatively simple.
Ferengi spirituality flowed largely from their belief that the universe was bound together in the Great Material Continuum. A Ferengi who lived a good life (one who makes a profit and accumulates wealth) was said to navigate the Great River of the Continuum. Such Ferengi were rewarded for their success in interpreting the wants and needs of this life by positioning themselves for success in the next life. (DS9: "Treachery, Faith and the Great River")
In the case of Ferengi, the mercantile belief in the finite but eternal nature of material accumulation meant that you could take it with you. Upon death a Ferengi found himself before the Blessed Exchequer, to whom Ferengi prayed in life, and was evaluated on the basis of the profit earned while alive. A successful Ferengi was allowed to bribe their way into the Divine Treasury where the wealth he had accumulated could be used to bid on his next life under the supervision of the Celestial Auctioneers. An unsuccessful Ferengi might find himself cast into the Vault of Eternal Destitution, never to return. (DS9: "Little Green Men", "Body Parts", "The Emperor's New Cloak")
The Ferengi death ritual prohibited an autopsy from being performed on a deceased Ferengi. However, it was accepted practice for a Ferengi to auction off his vacuum-desiccated remains after death, providing the opportunity for their loved ones or enemies to own a piece of the Ferengi after his passing and as a final opportunity to raise capital for the soon to be deceased. (TNG: "Suspicions"; DS9: "The Nagus", "Body Parts")
The Ferengi Alliance was the main political body of the Ferengi. It was dedicated to the promotion of profit and commerce and was overseen by a Grand Nagus, who acted as both head of state and principal business leader. The Nagus' power was supported by both the Ferengi Bill of Opportunities as well as the Rules of Acquisition. (DS9: "Profit and Lace")
The Ferengi Commerce Authority, or FCA, was an agency of the Alliance concerned with business practices and the enforcement of trade under the Ferengi Trade By-Laws and Ferengi Code. Agents of the FCA were known as Liquidators and were governed by the Board of Liquidators. The FCA tightly regulated Ferengi business affairs in all industries and throughout the quadrant.
Additional government institutions included the Ferengi Gaming Commission, Ferengi Health Commission, and the Ferengi Trade Mission. (DS9: "Ferengi Love Songs"; VOY: "Infinite Regress"; TNG: "The Perfect Mate")
Generally, the Ferengi Alliance stayed neutral in the politics of the galaxy, since the Ferengi were solely interested in profit and making enemies would diminish business opportunities. In the spirit of free enterprise, most Ferengi business ventures were made without the knowledge of the government. As a result, while a number of hostile conflicts occurred between the Federation and the Ferengi in the 2360s, the Ferengi Alliance itself was not held responsible. Quark once claimed that the Ferengi had never fought an interstellar war. (DS9: "The Jem'Hadar")
The importance of business was felt even in Ferengi government, as powerful businessmen could easily become powerful political figures representing their companies the way states or worlds are represented in most other cultures.
The neutral tendencies of the Ferengi and their government were evident in the 34th and 35th Rules of Acquisition: "War is good for business" and "Peace is good for business". Counter-intuitively, this neutral status often enhanced the influence of the Ferengi Alliance in the galaxy. By positioning themselves as interested only in commerce, not only did Ferengi manage to avoid being embroiled in larger conflicts such as the Dominion War, they also made themselves available as intermediaries. Ferengi trade representatives often accompanied other governments on diplomatic missions where trade negotiations might serve to open the door to more extensive relations between trade partners who might otherwise have difficulty doing business because of the political climate. (DS9: "Starship Down")
In keeping with their neutral tradition, the Ferengi did not maintain a standing military force and were generally considered ineffectual in most military matters. However, the role of DaiMon in Ferengi commerce was a quasi-military rank and the Alliance did provide the use of starships, notably the D'Kora-class marauders, for the purpose of mercantile exploration and, in some cases, defense of business interests. (TNG: "Ménage à Troi")
See also Edit
Ferengi history reached back approximately 10,000 years, but much of their early history was limited to legend. The most significant events of early Ferengi history were the creation of the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition by Gint and the merging of business and political philosophies into the office of the Grand Nagus. (DS9: "Little Green Men", "Body Parts")
After the evolution of their commerce-intensive society, the Ferengi purchased warp drive technology and began to expand their commercial interests in the galaxy. Even at this point, however, the Ferengi were a mysterious race who were often only known through rumor. Due to their ambitious and covetous nature many Ferengi have shown a tendency not to identify themselves to new species during a first encounter and to exploit such species' lack of knowledge about Ferengi philosophy and society. (ENT: "Acquisition"; VOY: "False Profits")
In 2151, Starfleet had their first encounter with the Ferengi, although they would not realize it for two more centuries. This initial encounter took place when four Ferengi marauders boarded Enterprise NX-01 after rendering its crew unconscious using a "Trojan Horse" device. The pirates attempted to plunder the starship of items they believed held value, but their plans were ultimately foiled by the Enterprise crew and the Ferengi's own greed. With Enterprise back under Starfleet control, the pirates were allowed to leave with a warning not to plunder any more ships in the area. (ENT: "Acquisition")
In 2355, while Captain Jean-Luc Picard was in command of the USS Stargazer, Starfleet had another encounter with the Ferengi, although again it wouldn't be realized until nine years later. While traveling through the Maxia Zeta system the USS Stargazer was attacked by an unidentified starship damaging shields. This forced Captain Picard to perform a maneuver in which the Stargazer jumped into high warp, making it appear to the attackers that the ship was in two places at once. This tactic was so highly regarded by Starfleet that it was given the designation "the Picard Maneuver". During the ensuing confusion, the Stargazer was able to destroy the enemy vessel, but the damage to the Stargazer was substantial and the crew were forced to abandon the ship. (TNG: "The Battle")
Official First Contact between the United Federation of Planets and the Ferengi occurred in 2364 in the Delphi Ardu system, where a Ferengi vessel and the USS Enterprise-D were trapped in orbit by a derelict outpost of the ancient Tkon Empire. Prior to this contact there were multiple incidents of contact between Ferengi and Humans but, for various reasons, documentation of the Ferengi as an identified race was not recorded. (TNG: "The Last Outpost")
Upon first contact with the Ferengi, Starfleet personnel observed the species to speak with broken English, often gasping and hissing, and moving in a cat-like "slinking" manner. Within the space of two years, however, the Ferengi had adapted to Federation mannerisms and later encounters had the Ferengi speaking perfect English and moving as a normal human would. A carry-over which was (and still is) common among all Ferengi is to call Humans by the name "Hew-mons" instead of the correct pronunciation. (TNG: "The Price"; DS9: "Emissary")
See also Edit
- "The Last Outpost" (Season One)
- "The Battle"
- "Peak Performance" (Season Two)
- "The Price" (Season Three)
- "Captain's Holiday"
- "Ménage à Troi"
- "Future Imperfect" (Hologram Only) (Season Four)
- "Unification II" (Season Five)
- "The Perfect Mate"
- "Rascals" (Season Six)
- "Chain of Command, Part I"
- "Force of Nature" (Season Seven)
- "Emissary" (Season One)
- "A Man Alone"
- "Past Prologue"
- "The Passenger"
- "Move Along Home"
- "The Nagus"
- "The Storyteller"
- "The Homecoming" (Season Two)
- "The Siege"
- "Rules of Acquisition"
- "Necessary Evil"
- "The Alternate"
- "Playing God"
- "The Jem'Hadar"
- "The House of Quark" (Season Three)
- "Life Support"
- "Heart of Stone"
- "Prophet Motive"
- "Through the Looking Glass"
- "Family Business"
- "Little Green Men" (Season Four)
- "Our Man Bashir"
- "Paradise Lost"
- "Bar Association"
- "Shattered Mirror"
- "Body Parts"
- "The Assignment" (Season Five)
- "The Ascent"
- "The Darkness and the Light"
- "For the Uniform"
- "Doctor Bashir, I Presume"
- "Business as Usual"
- "Ferengi Love Songs"
- "Soldiers of the Empire"
- "Blaze of Glory"
- "Empok Nor"
- "In the Cards"
- "Call to Arms"
- "A Time to Stand" (Season Six)
- "Rocks and Shoals"
- "Behind the Lines"
- "Favor the Bold"
- "Sacrifice of Angels"
- "You Are Cordially Invited"
- "The Magnificent Ferengi"
- "One Little Ship"
- "Profit and Lace"
- "Tears of the Prophets"
- "Image in the Sand" (Season Seven)
- "Take Me Out to the Holosuite"
- "Treachery, Faith and the Great River"
- "The Siege of AR-558"
- "It's Only a Paper Moon"
- "The Emperor's New Cloak"
- "Badda-Bing, Badda-Bang"
- "'Til Death Do Us Part"
- "The Changing Face of Evil"
- "The Dogs of War"
- "What You Leave Behind"
In the script for TNG: "The Last Outpost", the first view of a Ferengi, as seen on the Enterprise-D's viewscreen, is said to be "large," and "menacing," though later descriptions of how the Ferengi look, up close, characterize them as "hairless humanoids with protruding cupped ears, dressed in strange clothing" and "fine-boned, small – looking far different and less menacing than the image transmitted to the Enterprise Main Viewer." The Ferengi accent is described as "alien, clipped," and "arrogant" and members of the species are also scripted as having "blue colored nails" and "beady eyes" which "'dart' around birdlike" although the Ferengi are "marginally blind" with "weak eyesight." 
The facial appearance of the Ferengi was designed by Andrew Probert, and refined and produced by Makeup Supervisor Michael Westmore. (Star Trek Encyclopedia 2nd ed., p. 152) Westmore recalled how he and his department altered Probert's initial designs for the species; "We took the drawings and eliminated the chin, and we changed from a batlike ear to a round ear; the pointed ones look like giant Vulcan ears, but by rounding them off we still got a big-eared effect." (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 2, Issue 12, p. 26)
The word "Ferengi" was derived from the Arabic and Persian word فرنجي faranji, which meant "frank", as in the Frankish/European traders who made contact with Arabic traders; the word later came to mean "foreigner" in general, though in modern Arabic, it is generally restricted to the meaning "European". (citation needed • edit)
The Ferengi were initially conceived by the early writers of Star Trek: The Next Generation to become a real threat to the Federation, as the Klingons were in The Original Series. In fact, the Ferengi were intended to take the place of the Klingons, who could no longer be used as regular antagonists. It was soon realized, however, that nothing about the Ferengi was threatening at all. Producer Robert Justman later reckoned, "If you wanted to keep the characters around I suppose that's what you have to end up doing – you can't have them always hissing at each other. I guess Rick [Berman] took the road that was the best way to go once they became popular." (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 2, Issue 12, p. 21) The Ferengi's level of technological development therefore also changed. For example, in "The Last Outpost", the Ferengi have technology on par with that of the Federation, but by the time of "Little Green Men", it was revealed that they are not that technologically advanced, and have bought a good share of their technology.
Many people (including Ira Steven Behr and Armin Shimerman) consider the introduction of the Ferengi in TNG to be "a disaster". Indeed, Behr asks, "Was there ever an alien race on Star Trek that did not work more than the Ferengi when they were introduced?" (Quark's Story, DS9 Season 2 DVD special features) Likewise, Wil Wheaton has stated that the Ferengi were "probably the lamest enemy ever introduced in the history of television."  On the other hand, Robert Justman thought the Ferengi worked best when they were first introduced. (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 2, Issue 12, p. 21)
The final draft script for the TNG episode "Angel One" named the Ferengi as the enemies with seven battle cruisers near a Federation outpost. In the final episode, the Romulans had become the enemy.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine re-imagined the Ferengi as a scheming, profit-driven, yet likable species – a change that had begun in TNG episodes such as "Ménage à Troi". As Ira Behr states, "Deep Space Nine and Armin Shimerman and Quark and some others, have made the Ferengis a race to be enjoyed and cherished." (Quark's Story, DS9 Season 2 DVD special features) Indeed, Armin Shimerman himself even goes so far as to say of his DS9 character, "My agenda in playing Quark was to try to undo the horrible thing that I had done to the Ferengi in "The Last Outpost", where I had presented a real one dimensional character." (Crew Dossier: Quark, DS9 Season 6 DVD special features)
From its first season, beginning with the episode "The Nagus", DS9 tended to do one or two so-called 'Ferengi episodes' every year. Generally, these episodes were 'comedy episodes', farcical romps that were far more cartoonish than anything else seen in the Star Trek universe. For some of the more traditional fans of Star Trek, however, the existence of such episodes wasn't entirely welcomed, and the Ferengi episodes became something of a controversial part of the DS9 legacy, as Ira Behr explains; "What I found for the most part was that the more 'passionate' fans were not big fans of the Ferengi episodes. The people I'd meet on planes who just watched the show, they loved the Ferengi episodes. They didn't see it as being untrue to the canon, or as, you know, doing the type of show that Star Trek is not supposed to be doing. They seemed to like them." (The Ferengi Culture, DS9 Season 5 DVD special features)
It has often been suggested that the Ferengi are in fact Star Trek's representatives of 20th and 21st century Humans. For example, Ira Behr states, "The Ferengi, even more than O'Brien, are the closest to 20th century human beings on the show. They're us. They have the energy of 20th century human beings, they have the drive, they have the greed, they have the sense of self that we do. You can't trust them until you can trust them, and once you understand them, they're quite wonderful. And like us, they're constantly rising above their limitations." (Quark's Story, DS9 Season 2 DVD special features) Similarly, Robert Hewitt Wolfe states, "The Ferengi are us. That's the gag, the Ferengis are Humans. They're more human than the Humans on Star Trek because they are so screwed-up, and they are so dysfunctional. They're regular people. And that was the fun of that. Obviously, the characterizing is taken to the extreme, and sometimes even made into cartoons. But the best cartoons are also us, and that's why we took such delight in the Ferengi episodes." (Hidden File 03, DS9 Season 3 DVD, Special Features) Wolfe also states, quite simply, "In the Star Trek universe, the Ferengi are the most human people out there. Because the Human people in the Star Trek universe are much more evolved than we are. The Ferengi aren't." (Crew Dossier: Quark, DS9 Season 6 DVD special features)
Ira Behr also commented, "To me, the Ferengis are 23rd century human beings, you know. They have all the drive, the need to succeed, the greed, the self interest, the good and the bad of us, though with some difference, because Quark was always great in some of these shows, from "The Jem'Hadar" on, to give the point of view of 'The Federation this, the Federation that. Well, we're actually as good or better. We're saner, we don't conquer.' They see themselves as a kinder, gentler people trying not to get sucked up by the vast conglomeration of Federation forces, you know, it's big business, a superpower." (The Ferengi Culture, DS9 Season 5 DVD special features)
A Ferengi appeared sitting next to Chris Pine in a diner in a photoshoot for the December 2009 issue of GQ.
The discrepancy between the early Ferengi and the later ones was at least partly explained in the novel The Buried Age, a flashback novel looking at Picard's career between the destruction of the Stargazer and assuming command of the Enterprise-D. The book explains that the supposedly threatening nature of the Ferengi in early TNG was a product of disinformation; viewing the Federation's moneyless economic structure as a sign of insanity, the Grand Nagus ordered a military buildup and sanctioned the spread of malicious rumors so that, when they did make contact, it would be from a position of strength.
- Ferengi at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- Ferengi at Wikipedia
- Ferengi at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
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