Word Origin & History
late 13c., yrichon "hedgehog," from O.N.Fr. *irechon (cf. Picard irechon, Walloon ireson, Hainaut hirchon), from O.Fr. herichun "hedgehog" (Fr. hérisson), formed with dim. suffix -on from V.L. *hericionem, from L. ericius "hedgehog," from PIE base *gher- "to bristle" (cf. Gk. kheros "hedgehog;"
). 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 1591 (a 19c. Newfoundland name for them was whore's eggs).