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[ur-chin] /ˈɜr tʃɪn/
a mischievous boy.
any small boy or youngster.
either of two small rollers covered with card clothing used in conjunction with the cylinder in carding.
Chiefly British Dialect. a hedgehog.
Obsolete. an elf or mischievous sprite.
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
1. rascal, scamp. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for urchins
  • Sea urchins graze on kelp, so kelp forests declined.
  • But small reserves can still be extremely effective, especially for relatively sedentary species such as sea urchins and lobsters.
  • Even true immortality to accomplish this they would have to resemble echinoderms, such as sea urchins, except much more high-tech.
  • When the compressed material was introduced into laboratory tanks, the spines of sea urchins and the shells of mollusks dissolved.
  • These rings are caused animals such as fish and sea urchins, which munch on the algae and seaweed that cover the reef floor.
  • The house specialty is spaghetti with lobster, also served with a variety of sea urchins, octopus and sole.
  • Starfish, toadfish, drum fish and sea urchins are fairly common sights.
  • The nooks and crannies of coral formations themselves shelter sea urchins, crabs and other invertebrates.
  • Watch out for urchins and rock inside the bay where the waves break.
  • The exhibitions of glowing jellyfish and sea urchins are particularly delightful.
British Dictionary definitions for urchins


a mischievous roguish child, esp one who is young, small, or raggedly dressed
an archaic or dialect name for a hedgehog
either of the two cylinders in a carding machine that are covered with carding cloth
(obsolete) an elf or sprite
Word Origin
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
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Word Origin and History for urchins



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
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