[ pawr-kyuh-pahyn ]
/ ˈpɔr kyəˌpaɪn /


any of several rodents covered with stiff, sharp, erectile spines or quills, as Erethizon dorsatum of North America.

Origin of porcupine

1375–1425; late Middle English porcupyne, variant of porcapyne; replacing porke despyne < Middle French porc d'espine thorny pig. See pork, spine
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

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British Dictionary definitions for porcupine


/ (ˈpɔːkjʊˌpaɪn) /


any of various large hystricomorph rodents of the families Hystricidae, of Africa, Indonesia, S Europe, and S Asia, and Erethizontidae, of the New World. All species have a body covering of protective spines or quills
Derived Formsporcupinish, adjectiveporcupiny, adjective

Word Origin for porcupine

C14 porc despyne pig with spines, from Old French porc espin; see pork, spine
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for porcupine



c.1400, porke despyne, from Old French porc-espin (early 13c., Modern French porc-épic), literally "spiny pig," from Latin porcus "hog" + spina "thorn, spine" (see spike (n.1)). The word had many forms in Middle English and early Modern English, including portepyn, porkpen, porkenpick, porpoynt, and Shakespeare's porpentine (in "Hamlet").

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper