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

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