Definition of urchin in English:



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

    ‘he was surrounded by a dozen street urchins in rags’
    • ‘Two native maids carried baskets of laundry, and some young urchins played a game with old dice, wagering stones.’
    • ‘Of course, the little urchins must be properly dressed.’
    • ‘He had told her that there would always be street urchins, to young and weak to work, scouring the streets for pockets to pick.’
    • ‘It will be the first taste of love, stability and continuing care the ten former street urchins will have encountered.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘With a bald head, thin limbs and swollen belly, he is a street urchin of about eight.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Well, the young girl just ran after the urchin, down the street she ran, and turned the corner.’
    • ‘We are approached, then pursued, by a small posse of grubby, half-naked street urchins.’
    • ‘The young urchin had learned that move while wrestling with the other boys in the East Hill streets.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Stories abound of coal wagons stripped of half their load by street urchins before a first delivery could be made.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘I was chased away by men in suits who thought that I was a street urchin.’
    • ‘Some street urchins and migrant workers then moved in and produced a lot of rubbish in the building.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    mischievous child, imp, monkey, puck, rascal, rogue, minx, mischief-maker, prankster, tearaway
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1archaic A goblin.
  • 2

    short for sea urchin
    • ‘They grow to an impressive size and pass the time cracking open hard-shelled creatures like crabs and urchins between their fearsome teeth.’
    • ‘Without sea otters, urchins overgraze the kelp, eating the base of the plant so that it becomes detached from the sea floor and dies.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘In the past, the fish and urchins fed on the algae, allowing the coral to grow.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Kids also enjoy the tide pool touch tank filled with sea stars, urchins, and horseshoe crabs.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Animals examined as part of the study include deep-ocean sea cucumbers, urchins and brittle stars.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘You can find urchins and starfish on the rocky ledges and brittle stars and edible crabs on the sandy bottom.’
    • ‘If the sea otters are not around to eat the urchins, scientists fear the urchins will wipe out the forests.’
    • ‘The senior students were keen to observe the invertebrate marine animals, such as starfish, urchins and crustaceans.’
    • ‘Birds, fish and mammals feast on the barnacles, snails, urchins and other animals that vary from tiny shore crabs to spectacular giant green anemones.’
    • ‘Where sea otters are present, the urchins are limited by otter predation and kelp forests are abundant.’
    • ‘Abalone and urchins are two of the most prized and highly priced seafood delicacies worldwide.’
    • ‘The soft coral is far more spectacular than you expected and the urchins are there in their thousands.’
    • ‘Otters mostly feed on invertebrates such as urchins, squid, octopus, crabs, abalone and other mollusks.’
    • ‘Stare into a rockpool, and it's like being a kid again: urchins of every colour feed among weird and wonderful molluscs.’
    • ‘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.’
  • 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’.