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

Here's how flying with dogs, cats, parakeets, porcupines and more will change in 2019: More fliers will travel with their pets. Katherine Lagrave, Condé Nast Traveler, "How Flying With Pets Will Change in 2019," 14 Dec. 2018 Parents can't stop pinning ideas to dress their babies up as tiny critters like baby ducks and porcupines. Country Living, "These Are The Most Popular Halloween Costumes On Pinterest This Year," 30 Sep. 2016 This should anchor the porcupine body and stop it from rolling around. Woman's Day Staff, Woman's Day, "50+ Creative Pumpkin Carving Ideas for Halloween," 25 July 2018 Designs varied greatly from tribe to tribe, with elements including porcupine quills and beading, according to Cécile R. Ganteaume, associate curator at the National Museum of the American Indian. Rebecca Malinsky, WSJ, "The Ultimate Summer Shoe (It’s Not a Sandal)," 19 July 2018 Oil exploration in the ANWR — a vast wilderness in Northwest Alaska whose coastal plain is home to polar bears in winter and porcupine caribou and hundreds of migratory bird species in summer — has been the focus of debate for four decades. Anchorage Daily News, "Companies’ first step in drilling for oil in ANWR draws scathing federal response," 31 May 2018 In addition to fruit bats, other animals that have been known to become infected with the virus are chimpanzees, gorillas, monkeys, forest antelope and porcupines. Susan Scutti, CNN, "Ebola 101: Answers to your questions about causes, symptoms, transmission and treatments," 25 May 2018 Antelope and porcupines also can spread Ebola when slaughtered. NBC News, "What is Ebola? The new outbreak in Congo explained," 18 May 2018 Experienced dog handlers work one-on-one with each dog owner and their dog to train the dog to avoid the sight, smell and sound of rattlesnakes, skunks and porcupines. Michelle Jenkins, idahostatesman, "Boise Bike Week celebrates cycling in all its forms | Idaho Statesman," 7 May 2018

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

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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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