September 06, 2016
urchin (noun)
\ER-chin\ Hear it!
What does it mean?
: a mischievous child
How do you use it?
Vanessa loved to listen to Grandma tell about when Dad was a young urchin who was always getting into mischief.
Are you a word wiz?

The word "urchin" used to refer to something quite different from a mischievous child. It referred to an animal. Which of the following do you think once went by the name "urchin"?

Mischievous children have been called "urchins" since at least the mid-1500s. But back in the 1300s, when it first appeared in English, the word "urchin" referred to a hedgehog. "Urchin" ultimately comes from the Latin "eris," meaning "hedgehog." The curious physical appearance of hedgehogs gave rise to extended uses of "urchin." To call a person an "urchin" usually suggested a ragged appearance, but a hedgehog's sharp spines were also sometimes compared to a person's sharp wit. "Urchin" also referred to mischievous goblins and elves believed to take the form of hedgehogs. The prickly hedgehog also gave its name to a spiny marine cousin, the sea urchin.
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