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 One side of the trail is framed by a wall of tall cholla, a plant famous for wicked barbed spines like those of a porcupine. Jason H. Harper, Robb Report, "This Mountain-Biking Mecca in Mexico Offers an Isolated Escape Into Nature," 14 Mar. 2021 The teaser also gives a sneak peek at snail, pig, black swan, seashell and porcupine costumes that haven't been announced yet. Dana Rose Falcone, PEOPLE.com, "Introducing Russian Doll! Meet The Masked Singer Season 5’s Newest Character," 24 Feb. 2021 The mane is thought to have been controlled by muscles allowing it to be raised, in a similar way a dog raises its hackles or a porcupine raises its spines when threatened, the authors said in a news release. Katie Hunt, CNN, "Dinosaur sported impressive mane and had ribbons protruding from its shoulders," 15 Dec. 2020 The porcupine caribou come to the coastal plain in summer to give birth to their young. Popular Science, "Drilling the Arctic refuge doesn’t make sense—but Trump wants it to happen anyway," 24 Nov. 2020 Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park has had a handful of births this year, including a giraffe, a zebra, an aardvark, a porcupine and recently a white rhinoceros. Orlando Sentinel Podcasts, orlandosentinel.com, "PODCAST: Baby boom at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park (Ep. 72)," 4 Nov. 2020 Animal Kingdom has had a handful other births this year, including a giraffe, a zebra and a porcupine. Dewayne Bevil, orlandosentinel.com, "Disney’s Animal Kingdom welcomes baby rhino," 26 Oct. 2020 Move quietly and stay alert for mule deer, elk, pronghorn antelope, coyote, badger and porcupine. Roger Naylor, The Arizona Republic, "Flagstaff to Grand Canyon is one of Arizona's most gorgeous drives. Here's how to do it," 9 Oct. 2020 When people are as prickly as a porcupine, use your sensitivity and social graces to emerge unscathed. Tribune Content Agency, oregonlive, "Horoscope for Oct. 5, 2020: Aries, don’t flirt with danger; Sagittarius, hold onto your money," 5 Oct. 2020

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

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

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Statistics for porcupine

Last Updated

18 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Porcupine.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/porcupine. Accessed 15 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for porcupine



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

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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