Definition of porcupine in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈpôrkyəˌpīn/


Image of porcupine
A large rodent with defensive spines or quills on the body and tail.
Example sentences
  • The rodent also seems to be an ancestor of the hystricognaths, a group of rodents that is spread across the globe and includes porcupines, African mole rats, guinea pigs, and chinchillas.
  • They have to contend with elephants, hippos, bushpigs, porcupines, vervet monkeys, baboons and birds which are after their crops.
  • Other animals photographed included elephants, sun bears, porcupines, clouded leopards, wild dogs, and panthers.


Late Middle English: from Old French porc espin, from Provençal porc espi(n), from Latin porcus 'pig' + spina 'thorn'.

  • An early form of porcupine was porke despyne, which possibly came from Latin porcus spinosus ‘prickly pig’. The word appeared in many forms between the 15th and 17th centuries, including portepyn, porkpen, porkenpick, and porpoynt. Shakespeare knew the animal as a porpentine and it appears in this form in his plays, often as the name of an inn. The ghost of Hamlet's father tells Hamlet that his story could make his son's hairs ‘stand on end, / Like quills upon the fretful porpentine’.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: por·cu·pine

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