Where does the term “urchin” come from and What does urchin mean?

When the Normans invaded England they brought with them their name for the hedgehog, an animal that we do not have is America but which is related to the porcupine.

The Norman name was herichon, from the popular Latin name, hericion.

English attempts to master the French name produced forms variously spelled hurcheon, irchin, and ultimately urchin.

Popular superstition had it that these creatures were not always what they appeared, but sometimes disguised an elf or goblin who had assumed the form of the innocent animal for concealment.

Thus it came about that a mischievous child, likened to an elf by his conduct, has had the name of the hedgehog, urchin, applied to him.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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