Definition of urchin in English:



  • 1A young child who is poorly or raggedly dressed.

    ‘he was surrounded by a dozen street urchins in rags’
    • ‘The streets teem with hustling, bustling humanity, hag-like beggar women, street urchins and drunken revellers urinating against inn walls, all rubbing shoulders with the gentry in their smart clothes and carriages.’
    • ‘Two native maids carried baskets of laundry, and some young urchins played a game with old dice, wagering stones.’
    • ‘I don't miss the little street urchins who offered to mind the car for 50p, leaving you with a vague threat that they'd do your car in if you didn't pay up.’
    • ‘Christian people of the day used to come together to educate the local street urchins, and often found that they had to feed the kids before they could teach them anything, they were so starving.’
    • ‘It will be the first taste of love, stability and continuing care the ten former street urchins will have encountered.’
    • ‘Stories abound of coal wagons stripped of half their load by street urchins before a first delivery could be made.’
    • ‘Though the city is witnessing changes in the system of solid waste disposal, old habits of street urchins to rummage through the garbage bins for various kinds of scrapes seem to continue.’
    • ‘We are approached, then pursued, by a small posse of grubby, half-naked street urchins.’
    • ‘Of course, the little urchins must be properly dressed.’
    • ‘Well, the young girl just ran after the urchin, down the street she ran, and turned the corner.’
    • ‘These street urchins are rambling around the neighborhood, grabbing anything that isn't bolted down, and are cashing in their finds less than two blocks from the scene of the crime.’
    • ‘Having a neat hole in your front door isn't entirely wise in the days of wandering street urchins with fireworks in their pockets just ripe for destructive mischief.’
    • ‘I was chased away by men in suits who thought that I was a street urchin.’
    • ‘He had told her that there would always be street urchins, to young and weak to work, scouring the streets for pockets to pick.’
    • ‘The young urchin had learned that move while wrestling with the other boys in the East Hill streets.’
    • ‘With a bald head, thin limbs and swollen belly, he is a street urchin of about eight.’
    • ‘Some street urchins and migrant workers then moved in and produced a lot of rubbish in the building.’
    • ‘Club secretary Brian Mulenga, who has been there from the start, says the team evolved from a clutch of ragged street urchins who toyed with homemade plastic balls on dusty patches of land.’
    • ‘The scallywags and street urchins of 1920s Kingston had come up with a new way of extracting a few pennies from unsuspecting members of the public.’
    • ‘Set in 2,500 square metres of land, the newly-built house, to be called Genesis, will become the refuge, and salvation, of ten destitute street urchins.’
    mischievous child, imp, monkey, puck, rascal, rogue, minx, mischief-maker, prankster, tearaway
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1archaic A goblin.
  • 2

    short for sea urchin
    • ‘Animals examined as part of the study include deep-ocean sea cucumbers, urchins and brittle stars.’
    • ‘The senior students were keen to observe the invertebrate marine animals, such as starfish, urchins and crustaceans.’
    • ‘Individuals tend to be specialized in their choice of prey: one otter may consume only urchins and crabs while another will eat mostly fish, all depending on the abilities of the individual otter and what is available in the area.’
    • ‘Without sea otters, urchins overgraze the kelp, eating the base of the plant so that it becomes detached from the sea floor and dies.’
    • ‘Abalone and urchins are two of the most prized and highly priced seafood delicacies worldwide.’
    • ‘If the sea otters are not around to eat the urchins, scientists fear the urchins will wipe out the forests.’
    • ‘You will often find species of shrimp living on urchins and starfish in the tropics and, if you look carefully, might also find very small hermit crabs adopting the same behaviour, particularly on starfish.’
    • ‘In the past, the fish and urchins fed on the algae, allowing the coral to grow.’
    • ‘Stare into a rockpool, and it's like being a kid again: urchins of every colour feed among weird and wonderful molluscs.’
    • ‘The soft coral is far more spectacular than you expected and the urchins are there in their thousands.’
    • ‘They grow to an impressive size and pass the time cracking open hard-shelled creatures like crabs and urchins between their fearsome teeth.’
    • ‘It is the skeletons of these latter creatures and sediments from algae, coral, snails, urchins, and other calcium rich organisms which glom together over hundreds of thousands of years to form reefs on the island fringe.’
    • ‘Where sea otters are present, the urchins are limited by otter predation and kelp forests are abundant.’
    • ‘You can find urchins and starfish on the rocky ledges and brittle stars and edible crabs on the sandy bottom.’
    • ‘Birds, fish and mammals feast on the barnacles, snails, urchins and other animals that vary from tiny shore crabs to spectacular giant green anemones.’
    • ‘They passed a large rock covered in anemones, urchins, and sea stars.’
    • ‘In fact, California purple urchins share more than 7,000 genes with humans, making them closer cousins to us than are fruit flies and worms, animals more commonly used as models in genetics research.’
    • ‘Otters mostly feed on invertebrates such as urchins, squid, octopus, crabs, abalone and other mollusks.’
    • ‘The mouth of urchins, located on the test's flat bottom (oral side), is called Aristotle's Lantern, named after the Greek philosopher who first described it.’
    • ‘Kids also enjoy the tide pool touch tank filled with sea stars, urchins, and horseshoe crabs.’
  • 3dialect A hedgehog.

    • ‘The name sea urchin comes from an old English meaning of urchin: hedgehog.’


Middle English hirchon, urchon ‘hedgehog’, from Old Northern French herichon, based on Latin hericius ‘hedgehog’.