The Ferengi are a spacefaring humanoid species native to the planet Ferenginar. Ferengi civilization was built on the ideals of pure laissez-faire capitalism, where all other goals were subjugated to the pursuit of profit.
Their 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 current state in the 24th century. (DS9: "Little Green Men")
- This is a very low designation number and may indicate an early assimilation date.
The Ferengi refer to humans as Hew-mons (pronounced "hoo-mons").
On average, the Ferengi are shorter than Humans. They have orange-colored skin, enlarged skulls, a wrinkled nose, and sharp teeth. Internally, they have ascending ribs and upper and lower lungs, as well as an unusual four-lobed brain that cannot be read by telepathic species such as Betazoids. (DS9: "The Bar Association", TNG: "The Price") Ferengi physiology is similar to that of the Dopterians and Kobheerians, of which they are distant relatives.
The Ferengi's most distinguishing feature is their large ears (called "lobes"), which give them extremely acute hearing. The lobes of the Ferengi male are larger than those of females. The sensitivity of the ears also makes them vulnerable to pain and other problems, including severe infections of the timpanic membrane which, if left untreated, can become fatal. (DS9: "The Bar Association")
- It should be noted that it is not known if this statement was to be taken literally or figuratively. It should also be noted that this was one of the rare moments that a Ferengi refered to his lobes as ears. (DS9: "Treachery, Faith, and the Great River")
The Ferengi heart rate is much faster that of a human. When Nog, Rom, and Quark were sent back to 1947 and analyzed by Human doctors, one of which commented on Quark's heart rate, "If you were human, I'd say you just suffered from a heart attack." (DS9: "Little Green Men")
- The rainy climate of the Ferengi homeworld and low-order inveterbrae of Ferengi cuisine would seem to suggest a species that evolved as foragers living close to the ground.
- See: Pyrocites
Society and Culture
The Ferengi culture has roots similar to that of the many other species, filled with wars, violence and greed. However, Ferengi managed to avoid many of the worst aspects of an evolving culture and their social history is notable for the absence of atrocities such as slavery or genocide, a distinction the Ferengi feel makes them morally superior. 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 have been the pillars of Ferengi society. This tendency led to the slow merging of business and political fields in Ferengi culture and that influence is evident in the near universal application of the Rules of Acquisition as both a personal and financial code of ethics.
The Rules of Acquisition provide advice that all good Ferengi should follow in order to lead a profitable life. For example, the first Rule of Acquisition is "Once you have their money, you never give it back".
The drive for individual gain in Ferengi society has lead to inventions that have spread across many species of the galaxy. Examples include such diverse items as holosuites and the popular drink, Slug-o-Cola. (DS9: "Profit and Lace", "Body Parts")
Role of Women
The traditional laws of the Ferengi were highly sexist and patriarchal by contemporary standards. Unlike Federation societies, those of the Romulans, and even Klingons, Ferengi females are barred from most aspects of society, including politics and business. Laws and traditional social values relegated Ferengi females to the status of second class citizens. In addition to being forbidden to earn profit and own property, Ferengi females are not allowed to wear clothes, leave their homes without male escort, or speak to strange males. 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", "Menage a Troi"; DS9: "Life Support", "Family Business")
However, 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 and, through her influence, Zek, developed with the goal of reforming cultural traditions that had excluded women. 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")
Rituals and traditions
The Ferengi Attainment Ceremony was the time in Ferengi tradition that an individual became old enough to make his own decisions. A young Ferengi about to embark on his first significant business opportunity may 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 greet one another by putting their wrists together, hands apart, and fingers curled inward, equivalent to the old Human custom of shaking hands; Jadzia Dax and Quark regularly greeted one another in this manner. On the other hand, when agreeing upon a deal, the two Ferengi place the back of one hand against that of the other person involve and pull 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 makes the same hand gesture used in greetings. The cultural connotations of displaying open hands are echoed again in the "obscene" gesture of a person waving empty hands above one's head.(TNG: "The Last Outpost", DS9: "The Emperor's New Cloak")
A Ferengi entering another Ferengi's home is required to pay an admission fee of one slip of latinum per person. One must also sign a waiver acknowledging responsibility in the event that something goes missing following one's visit. A traditional greeting in such situations has the resident Ferengi welcoming the visitor to his home and reminding him that "My house is my house", to which the visitor replies "As are its contents". (DS9: "Family Business")
Traditional Ferengi cuisine consists largely of slugs, insects, grubs, and other creatures humans would call "bugs". Many partake in the beetle snuff habit, snorting a fine powder of dried beetles.
According to traditional Ferengi beliefs, the hammer represents sexual prowess. (TNG: "Birthright, Part I") Actual sexual practices of Ferengi are not well known but oo-mox, manual stimulation of the lobes, is widely practiced and can be performed by non-Ferengi. In accordance with their male-dominated society it is not unusual for a Ferengi to have female servants who perform oo-mox for him in public as a means to pleasure and to communicate his status by overtly demonstrating that he can afford such luxuries. (TNG: "Menage a Troi", DS9: "The Nagus")
Appropriately for a materially obsessed species, the Ferengi have a 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.
- Interestingly, the Ferengi do not seem to make much use of modern technology to straighten their teeth.
The Ferengi written language resembles a flow chart in appearance with 60 degree angles and text most commonly emanating outward from a central hexagon. The hexagon may remain fixed, possibly denoting subject or tense, as the text around it flows, branches, expands and changes. (DS9: "Family Business", et al)
Because of the extremely rainy climate of their homeworld the Ferengi have 178 different words for rain in all its various forms. (DS9: "Let He Who Is Without Sin...") Conversely there are no Ferengi words for crispy, as the condition is largely unknown to them.
- See also Ferengi language
In modern Ferengi philosophy, the pursuit of Profit at any cost is the guiding principle for all traditional Ferengi. With the discovery 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.
In contrast to more "enlightened" species, greed, deceit, distrust, and opportunism are highly prized values among Ferengi and all are represented within the Rules. The Ferengi belief in conducting all business dealings under the advisory caveat-emptor, or "buyer beware", further reflects the pursuit of profit at all costs. (TNG: "The Last Outpost")
Exploitation is a rule in Ferengi society. The formation of labor unions is forbidden, and indeed most Ferengi don't wish to eradicate exploitation but to become the exploiters. (DS9: "The Bar Association")
If profit represents the ultimate goal to Ferengi, the loss of profit opportunity represents the ultimate punishment. Ferengi who break the law may be punished with the loss of all property and assets. If the crime is deemed severe enough the offending Ferengi's family may also suffer loss of profit opportunity, and may even be sold into indentured servitude to repay their debts - both literal and philosophical. (DS9: "Family Business")
Capital punishment is not unknown among Ferengi but perhaps even more feared is revocation of a Ferengi's business license. Such an action prohibits other Ferengi from conducting business with the offender and virtually ostracizes a Ferengi from his own society, leaving him with so few opportunities for true profit that death might be preferrable. (DS9: "Body Parts")
Regard for profit above all else, including life, is also evident in the Ferengi attitude toward dealing in weapons and other military technology. Though the galaxy abounds in weapons dealers the Ferengi have a far less disapproving attitude toward this profession than other races. (TNG: "The Perfect Mate; DS9: "Business as Usual") Similarly the Ferengi attitude toward personal liberty is superceded by desire for profit. Despite, or perhaps because of, never having endured slavery themselves Ferengi have shown themselves willing to engage in slave-trading. (ENT: "Acquisition")
Though it may seem at odds with a culture focused so exclusively on material existence, the Ferengi have a fairly robust and detailed religious life, even if the central philosophy behind the religion is relatively simple. Like everything else in their society, Ferengi religion revolves around the central concepts of profit and the accumulation of wealth.
Ferengi spirituality flows largely from their belief in the universe as bound together in the Great Material Continuum. A Ferengi who lives a good life, viz. one who makes a profit and accumulates wealth, is said to navigate the Great River of the Continuum. Such Ferengi are 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 means that you can take it with you. Upon death a Ferengi finds himself before the Blessed Exchequer, who Ferengi may pray to in life, and is evaluated on the basis of the profit earned while alive. A successful Ferengi is allowed entrance into the Divine Treasury where the wealth he has accumulated can be used to bid on his next life under the supervision of the Celestial Auctioneers. An unsuccessful Ferengi may 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 autopsy to be performed on a deceased Ferengi. However, it was accepted practice for a Ferengi to auction off his vaccuum-dessicated 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 is the main political body of the Ferengi. It is dedicated to the promotion profit and commerce and is overseen by a Grand Nagus. The Nagus' power is 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 is 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 are known as Liquidators and are governed by the Board of Liquidators.
Additional government institutions include 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 stays neutral in the politics of the galaxy, since the Ferengi are solely interested in profit and making enemies diminishes business opportunities. In the spirit of free enterprise, most Ferengi business ventures are 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.
The neutral tendencies of the Ferengi and their government is evident in the 34th and 35th Rules of Acquistion: War is good for business and Peace is good for business. Counter to intuition, this neutral status often enhances the influence of the Ferengi Alliance in the galaxy. By positioning themselves as interested only in commerce, not only do Ferengi manage to avoid being embroiled in larger conflicts such as the Dominion War they also make themselves available as intermediaries. Ferengi trade representatives may often accompany other governments on diplomatic missions where trade negotiations may 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 do not maintain a standing military force and are generally considered ineffectual in most military matters. However, the role of Daimon in Ferengi commerce is a quasi-military rank and the Alliance does 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: "Menage a Troi")
Ferengi history reaches back approximately 10,000 years but much of their early history is limited to legend. The most signficant events of early Ferengi history are the creation of the 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 species during a first encounter and to exploit of species' lack of knowledge about Ferengi philosophy and society. (ENT: "Acquisition", VOY: "False Profits")
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")
- See also Ferengi history
It was hoped, by the early writers of Star Trek: The Next Generation, that the Ferengi would become a real threat to the Federation, taking the place of the Klingons, who could not be used as enemies anymore. It was soon realised that nothing about them was threatening at all. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine successfully reimagined the Ferengi as a scheming, profit driven species.
The species was designed by Andrew Probert. The word "Ferengi" is derived from Arabic and Farsi word faranji which meant "Frank" as in French/European traders who made contact with Arabic traders, the word came to mean "Foreigner."'