Por"cu*pine (?), n. [OE. porkepyn, porpentine, OF. porc-espi, F. porc-épic (cf. It. porco spino, porco spinoso, Sp. puerco espino, puerco espin, fr. L. porcus swine + spina thorn, spine). The last part of the French word is perhaps a corruption from the It. or Sp.; cf. F. épi ear, a spike of grain, L. spica. See Pork, Spike a large nail, Spine.]
Any Old Word rodent of the genus Hystrix, having the back covered with long, sharp, erectile spines or quills, sometimes a foot long. The common species of Europe and Asia (Hystrix cristata) is the best known.
Any species of Erethizon and related genera, native of America. They are related to the true porcupines, but have shorter spines, and are arboreal in their habits. The Canada porcupine (Erethizon dorsatus) is a well known species.
Porcupine ant-eater Zool., the echidna. -- Porcupine crab Zool., a large spiny Japanese crab (Acantholithodes hystrix). -- Porcupine disease Med.. See Ichthyosis. -- Porcupine fish Zool., any plectognath fish having the body covered with spines which become erect when the body is inflated. See Diodon, and Globefish. -- Porcupine grass Bot., a grass (Stipa spartea) with grains bearing a stout twisted awn, which, by coiling and uncoiling through changes in moisture, propels the sharp-pointed and barbellate grain into the wool and flesh of sheep. It is found from Illinois westward. See Illustration in Appendix. -- Porcupine wood Bot., the hard outer wood of the cocoa palm; -- so called because, when cut horizontally, the markings of the wood resemble the quills of a porcupine.
© Webster 1913.