Definition of porcupine
: 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)
Recent Examples of porcupine from the Web
Visitors can take a wagon ride or drive their car through the farmland, which houses 500-plus animals, including porcupines, pigs, ostriches and zebras.
Like mammalian predators would flip over a porcupine to attack its underside, the maggot probably gets under the caterpillar and drills through its unprotected belly.
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.
Origin and Etymology of porcupine
Middle English porke despyne, from Middle French porc espin, from Old Italian porcospino, from Latin porcus pig + spina spine, prickle
First Known Use: 15th century
Definition of Porcupine
river 448 miles (721 kilometers) long in northern Yukon and northeastern Alaska flowing north and west into the Yukon River
PORCUPINE Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of porcupine for English Language Learners
: a small animal that has very stiff, sharp parts (called quills) all over its body
PORCUPINE Defined for Kids
Definition of porcupine for Students
: a gnawing slow-moving animal that is a large rodent and has stiff sharp quills among its hairs
History for porcupine
The porcupine is certainly not a source of pork, but the word pork and the porc- in the word porcupine both come ultimately from Latin porcus, “pig, hog.” Porcupine was modified from a compound word in Romance languages such as medieval French porc espin, literally, “spiny pig.” (The espin part comes from Latin spina, “thorn, spine.”)
Seen and Heard
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