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  1. a mischievous boy.
  2. any small boy or youngster.
  3. sea urchin.
  4. either of two small rollers covered with card clothing used in conjunction with the cylinder in carding.
  5. Chiefly British Dialect. a hedgehog.
  6. Obsolete. an elf or mischievous sprite.

Origin of urchin

1300–50; Middle English urchun, urchon hedgehog < Old North French (h)erichon, Old French heriçun < Vulgar Latin *hēriciōn- (stem of *hēriciō), equivalent to Latin ēric(ius) hedgehog + -iōn- -ion

Synonyms for urchin

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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for urchin

ragamuffin, brat, punk, waif, imp, cub, gamin, dickens, pup

Examples from the Web for urchin

Contemporary Examples of urchin

Historical Examples of urchin

British Dictionary definitions for urchin


  1. a mischievous roguish child, esp one who is young, small, or raggedly dressed
  2. See sea urchin, heart urchin
  3. an archaic or dialect name for a hedgehog
  4. either of the two cylinders in a carding machine that are covered with carding cloth
  5. obsolete an elf or sprite

Word Origin for urchin

C13: urchon, from Old French heriçon, from Latin ēricius hedgehog, from ēr, related to Greek khēr hedgehog
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 urchin

late 13c., yrichon "hedgehog," from Old North French *irechon (cf. Picard irechon, Walloon ireson, Hainaut hirchon), from Old French herichun "hedgehog" (Modern French hérisson), formed with diminutive suffix -on + Vulgar Latin *hericionem, from Latin ericius "hedgehog," from PIE root *gher- "to bristle" (cf. Greek kheros "hedgehog;" see horror).

Still used for "hedgehog" in non-standard speech in Cumbria, Yorkshire, Shropshire. Applied throughout 16c. to people whose appearance or behavior suggested hedgehogs, from hunchbacks (1520s) to goblins (1580s) to bad girls (c.1530); meaning "poorly or raggedly clothed youngster" emerged 1550s, but was not in frequent use until after c.1780. Sea urchin is recorded from 1590s (a 19c. Newfoundland name for them was whore's eggs).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper