echi·​nus i-ˈkī-nəs How to pronounce echinus (audio)
plural echini i-ˈkī-ˌnī How to pronounce echinus (audio)
: the rounded molding that lies directly beneath the abacus in the capital of a column in the Greek Doric order
: a similar member in other orders

Examples of echinus in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Multa novit vulpes, verum echinus unum magnum. Lance Eliot, Forbes, 21 Dec. 2021

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'echinus.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English, "sea urchin," borrowed from Latin echīnus "sea urchin, molding in a Doric capital," borrowed from Greek echînos "hedgehog, sea urchin," going back to Indo-European *h1hi-Hno- "hedgehog," whence, with o-ablaut, Armenian ozni (< *h1hi-Hn-(i)i̯eh2-); with a change of suffix, Germanic *egila-, whence Old English igil, īl "hedgehog," Old Saxon igil, Middle Dutch eghel, Old High German igil, Old Icelandic igull, ígull "sea urchin"; from a base *h1hi-i̯o-, Russian jëž, genitive ježá "hedgehog," Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian jêž, genitive jéža, Lithuanian ežy͂s

Note: Additionally, Ossetic has wyzyn (Iron dialect), uzun (Digor) "hedgehog," from Iranian *aźina-, per R. Lühr et al., Etymologisches Wörterbuch des Althochdeutschen, Band 5, p. 25/26, who also point out that the vowel alternation of the Greek and Armenian words suggests an original acrostatic paradigm (though the secondary derivation from a direct rather than oblique form in Armenian would be exceptional) . The hedgehog etymon has long been seen as a derivative of appurtenance from a word meaning "snake," the hedgehog supposedly being the "snake animal" or the "snake-killer." Whether this association is actually rooted in the behavior of hedgehogs or simply folkloric is a matter of debate; see discussion in J.P. Mallory and D.Q. Adams, Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture (Chicago, 1997), pp. 264-65. The base of *h1hi-Hno- would appear to be evident in the Greek i-stem échis "viper," if it goes back to *h1hi-. The problem, however, is that this word is apparently not matched elsewhere in Indo-European. M. Weiss has proposed that Greek échis and óphis "snake" (see ophidian) could represent oblique and direct forms of an acrostatic noun if it is assumed that the ch of échis "is the result of delabialization before i̯ that arose when the zero-grade suffix occurred before a case form beginning with a vowel" (Outline of the Historical and Comparative Grammar of Latin, Ann Arbor, 2020, p. 277). However, this would rule out any connection between échis and the hedgehog etymon, which must have a palatovelar rather than a labiovelar.

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of echinus was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near echinus

Cite this Entry

“Echinus.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Sep. 2023.

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