- "Never ask when you can take."
- – An old Ferengi saying (DS9: Babel)
The Ferengi were a space-faring humanoid species native to the planet Ferenginar. Ferengi civilization was built on the ideals of free enterprise, where all other goals are 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 state in the 24th century. (DS9: "Little Green Men")
The Borg designation for the Ferengi was Species 180. (VOY: "Infinite Regress")
This is a very low designation number and may indicate an early first contact date between the Borg and Ferengi.
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")
On average, Ferengi were shorter than Humans. They had orange-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. (DS9: "Bar Association"; TNG: "Lonely Among Us"; TNG: "The Price") Ferengi physiology was similar to that of the Dopterians, of which they were distant relatives.
Since Kobheerians look very similar to Dopterians, they too might be related to both species.
There are some episodes that contradict the inability of telepathic species to read Ferengi minds. For example in TNG, Deanna Troi does it on several occasions, though on others she and her mother, a more powerful telepath, claimed an inability to do so. (TNG: "The Price", "Ménage à Troi"). Receptivity to telepathy again featured in DS9: "Facets", when Quark volunteers to host the telepathic memories of one of Jadzia Dax's former hosts.
The Ferengi's most distinguishing feature was their large ears (called "lobes"), which gave them extremely acute hearing. The lobes of the Ferengi male were larger than those of females. The sensitivity of the ears 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")
Nog once stated "On Ferenginar, we learn about the Continuum while we still have our first set of ears." (DS9: "Treachery, Faith and the Great River")
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 referred to his lobes as ears. The Ferengi heart rate was much faster than that of a Human. When Nog, Rom, and Quark were sent back to 1947 and analyzed by Human doctors, one of the medics commented on Quark's heart rate, "If you were Human, I'd say you just suffered from a heart attack." (DS9: "Little Green Men")
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 than 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")
The rainy climate of the Ferengi homeworld and the low-order invertebrates constituting Ferengi cuisine would seem to suggest a species that evolved as foragers living close to the ground. 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")
- Additionally, in the script for "The Last Outpost", it was mentioned how Ferengi had weak eyesight, though this species-specific weakness was never mentioned or utilized again.
Society and culture
The Ferengi culture had roots similar to those of many other species, filled with wars, violence, and greed. 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. 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")
Role of Women
The traditional laws of the Ferengi were highly sexist and patriarchal by the contemporary standards of many other civilizations. Unlike those of the Federation, Romulan, or even Klingon societies, Ferengi females were barred from most aspects of society, including politics and business. 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.
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")
As described by Quark, in a marriage "on the Ferengi home world, husbands and wives never argue. There's no divorce, no broken homes; nothing but peaceful conjugal bliss." (DS9: "Fascination")
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 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", "Ménage à 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")
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 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. 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
Male Ferengi were introduced to the world on their Naming Day, one of the few Ferengi ceremonies that included a tradition of bestowing (free) gifts on someone. (DS9: "Rivals")
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")
Quark in a traditional display of submissionFerengi 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 "Whats 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")
- Interestingly, the Ferengi did not seem to make much use of modern technology to straighten their teeth
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...")
There was also B'Zal, a Ferengi code which used patterns of light and darkness. (TNG: "Bloodlines")
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. It may be significant that after Nog and Rom joined Starfleet and the Bajoran Militia respectively, they wore headdresses in materials and colors that matched their uniforms.
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")
Exploitation was a rule in Ferengi society. 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")
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 if profitable. (ENT: "Acquisition")
Though it seemed at odds with a culture focused so exclusively on material existence, the Ferengi had a fairly robust and detailed religious life, even if the central philosophy behind the religion was relatively simple. Like everything else in their society, Ferengi religion revolved around the central concepts of profit and the accumulation of wealth.
Ferengi spirituality flowed largely from their belief in 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")
The Ferengi seemed to draw a distinction between selfishness and greed, indicating that the accumulation of wealth serves a greater good and is therefore not selfish. This is likely the role of the Great Material Continuum and may explain why such accumulation is rewarded in the afterlife. However, it may also be the case that selfishness itself is considered a moral virtue and for that reason the accumulation of wealth is rewarded in the afterlife.
The Antechamber of the Divine TreasuryIn 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, whom Ferengi prayed to 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")
By the end of the Dominion War, in 2375, over 40% of the population on Ferenginar no longer believed they had to buy their way into the Divine Treasury. (DS9: "The Dogs of War")
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.
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.
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 to intuition, 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")
- Ferengi Market Exchange - The Ferengi Market Exchange is a center of Ferengi commerce. The exact structure and rules of the Exchange is unknown but it does have some similarities to finanical market indecies such as Wall Street and may involve the trading of shares in Ferengi companies like Slug-o-Cola.
- The Exchange is viewed as a significant indicator of the overall financial health of the Ferengi Alliance. Consequently, a drastic change in the Exchange could have political repurcussions as well. Grand Nagus Smeet, the only Nagus ever assassinated, oversaw the greatest drop prior to 2373 when a single-day drop of 199 points nearly caused the overthrow of Grand Nagus Zek. (DS9: "Ferengi Love Songs")
- Ferengi Futures Exchange - The Ferengi Futures Exchange is a center of Ferengi commerce on Ferenginar. Unlike the Ferengi Market Exchange, the Futures Exchange does not deal in established companies but instead allows Ferengi or other investors to gamble on the future price of commodities such as latinum and duranium.
- Vacuum desiccated remains of famous Ferengi could be sold as collectibles on the exchange. In 2372 Quark, after being mis-diagnosed with Dorek Syndrome, auctioned his own remains on the Exchange where Brunt purchased the entire collection for 500 bars of latinum. (DS9: "Body Parts")
- One year later, Quark realized that the mental faculties of Grand Nagus Zek had begun to deteriorate when he failed to accurately calculate a 17 percent increase in the price of duranium on the Exchange. (DS9: "Ferengi Love Songs")
Gint, first Grand NagusFerengi 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 species during a first encounter and to exploit of species' lack of knowledge about Ferengi philosophy and society. (ENT: "Acquisition"; VOY: "False Profits")
- Prior to 2151, the Ferengi came in contact with the Valakians. T'Pol was unfamiliar with the name "Ferengi." (ENT: "Dear Doctor")
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 Constellation-class 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. During the ensuing confusion Picard issued the order to destroy the enemy vessel, but the damage to the Stargazer was substantial and the crew abandoned 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")
- Clarus - The Clarus system, occasionally spelled as Clarius, is a star system in the Ferengi Alliance, neighboring Ferenginar. It is home to significant Arcybite mining operations and is one of the financial and political linchpins of the Alliance. (DS9: "The Nagus", "Profit and Lace")
The Clarus system appeared in the starchart Data and Picard were studying in Stellar Cartography in 2371. (Star Trek Generations)
- Ferenginar (homeworld)
- Irtok -Irtok was the primary planet in the Irtok system in the Ferengi Alliance . In 2374, Rom feared that Irtok had been invaded by the Dominion when all communication with Ferenginar was lost shortly after Zek was deposed as Grand Nagus. (DS9: "Profit and Lace") \
- Lappa IV -Lappa IV is the fourth planet in the Lappa system, inhabited by the Ferengi. It is the native world of the flower Zan Periculi. (TNG: "Ménage à Troi")