por·​cu·​pine | \ ˈpȯr-kyə-ˌpīn How to pronounce porcupine (audio) \
plural porcupines also porcupine

Definition of porcupine

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: any of various relatively large slow-moving chiefly herbivorous rodents having sharp erectile spines mingled with the hair and constituting an Old World terrestrial family (Hystricidae) and a New World chiefly arboreal family (Erethizontidae)


geographical name

Definition of Porcupine (Entry 2 of 2)

river 448 miles (721 kilometers) long in northern Yukon and northeastern Alaska flowing north and west into the Yukon River

Illustration of porcupine

Illustration of porcupine


In the meaning defined above

Examples of porcupine in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun In addition to lengthy lines for food — the longest was for barbacoa tacos and Big Red soda — the rodeo breakfast also had a petting zoo for locals to interact with an alpaca, a large turtle, a porcupine and other animals. Diego Mendoza-moyers, ExpressNews.com, "Crowds gather for annual South Side Rodeo Breakfast," 1 Feb. 2020 Nutria are most closely related to porcupines or South American capybaras, which is a source of protein for the subtropical countries such as Argentina, Chile and Uruguay. Victoria Dodge, chicagotribune.com, "Invasive rodent destroying coast target of dog treat business," 17 Sep. 2019 Miraculously, none of the tines had been touched by porcupines or mice. Pj Delhomme, Outdoor Life, "The Top 40 Typical and Nontypical Mule Deer of All Time," 1 Jan. 2020 Lions usually only eat porcupines in desperate situations when food is scarce, like during droughts. Emily Toomey, Smithsonian, "Ten Things We’ve Learned About Lions Since Disney’s Original ‘The Lion King’," 19 July 2019 These porcupines, which are native to South America, spend most of their time in the trees. cincinnati.com, "We took glam shots of Cincinnati Zoo animals. And they are adorable.," 3 Dec. 2019 Before the impact, the area was richly forested and home to many species of dinosaur, as well as small mammals that were around the size of a porcupine. Cathleen O'grady, Ars Technica, "Fossil bonanza paints detailed picture of mammals after dinosaur extinction," 25 Oct. 2019 Mark Rempel of Rempel Family Farm says a neighborhood porcupine has been feasting in his fields recently. Steve Edwards, Anchorage Daily News, "Brussels sprouts, pumpkins, potatoes, oh my: It’s officially fall at the farmers markets," 19 Sep. 2019 The park offers drive an drive-through tours with animals such as giraffes, elk, camels and zebras, as well as walk-through tours and educational feedings of animals such as porcupines, kangaroos, tortoises and gibbons. Craig Shoup, USA TODAY, "Fire kills unknown number of animals at Ohio wildlife park," 29 Nov. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'porcupine.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of porcupine


15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for porcupine


Middle English porke despyne, from Middle French porc espin, from Old Italian porcospino, from Latin porcus pig + spina spine, prickle

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Time Traveler for porcupine

Time Traveler

The first known use of porcupine was in the 15th century

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Statistics for porcupine

Last Updated

6 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Porcupine.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/porcupine. Accessed 25 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for porcupine


How to pronounce Porcupine (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of porcupine

: a small animal that has very stiff, sharp parts (called quills) all over its body


por·​cu·​pine | \ ˈpȯr-kyə-ˌpīn How to pronounce porcupine (audio) \

Kids Definition of porcupine

: a gnawing slow-moving animal that is a large rodent and has stiff sharp quills among its hairs

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More from Merriam-Webster on porcupine

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with porcupine

Spanish Central: Translation of porcupine

Nglish: Translation of porcupine for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of porcupine for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about porcupine

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