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From Middle English irchoun (hedgehog), borrowed from Old Northern French irechon, variant of Old French herichun, heriçun, heriçon (compare modern hérisson), from Vulgar Latin *ericio, ericionem, from Latin ericius (hedgehog).



urchin (plural urchins)

  1. A mischievous child.
    • 1912, Zane Grey, Riders of the Purple Sage, Chapter 7
      And like these fresh green things were the dozens of babies, tots, toddlers, noisy urchins, laughing girls, a whole multitude of children of one family. For Collier Brandt, the father of all this numerous progeny, was a Mormon with four wives.
  2. A street urchin, a child who lives, or spends most of their time, in the streets.
    • W. Howitt
      And the urchins that stand with their thievish eyes / Forever on watch ran off each with a prize.
  3. (archaic) A hedgehog.
  4. A sea urchin.
  5. A mischievous elf supposed sometimes to take the form of a hedgehog.
    • Shakespeare
      We'll dress [them] like urchins, ouphes, and fairies.
  6. One of a pair in a series of small card cylinders arranged around a carding drum; so called from its fancied resemblance to the hedgehog.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Knight to this entry?)
  7. (historical) A neutron-generating device that triggered the nuclear detonation of the earliest plutonium atomic bombs.

Related terms[edit]