rodent noted for its stout, clumsy body and the defensive spines or quills that cover the body and tail, c. 1400, porke despyne, from Old French porc-espin (early 13c., Modern French porc-épic), literally "spine hog," from Latin porcus "hog" (from PIE root *porko- "young pig") + spina "thorn, spine" (see spine). The word had many forms in Middle English and early Modern English, including portepyn (influenced by port "to carry," as though "carry-spine"), porkpen, porkenpick, porpoynt, and Shakespeare's porpentine (in "Hamlet"). The same notion forms the name in other languages (Dutch stekel-varken, German Stachelschwein).
The spines grow mostly on the rump and back of the broad flat tail ; they are quite loosely attached, and when the animal slaps with its tail (its usual mode of defense) some quills may be flirted to a distance. Something like this, no doubt, gives rise to the popular notion that the porcupine "shoots" its quills at an enemy. [Century Dictionary]
May (9 years old)—"Papa, things pertaining to a horse are equine, to cows bovine, to cats feline, to dogs canine, but to hogs, is what?"
Fay (5 years)—"Porcupine, O tourse."
[Health, August 1904]
With haruspication may be classed the art of divining by bones, as where North American Indians would put in the fire a certain flat bone of a porcupine, and judge from its colour if the porcupine-hunt would be successful. The principal art of this kind is divination by a shoulder-blade, technically called scapulimancy or omoplatoscopy. This is especially found in vogue in Tartary, where it is ancient, and whence it may have spread into all other countries where we hear of it. [Edward B. Tylor, "Primitive Culture," 1871]
1834, from Modern Latin Echinodermata, name of the phylum that includes starfish and sea urchins, from Latinized form of Greek ekhinos "sea urchin," originally "porcupine, hedgehog" (see echidna) + derma (genitive dermatos) "skin," from PIE root *der- "to split, flay, peel," with derivatives referring to skin and leather. So called from its spiky shell. Related: Echinodermal.
c. 1400, quil, "piece of reed, stalk of cane, hollow stem of a feather" (used as a tube to drain liquid), probably somehow related to Middle High German kil "quill," from Low German quiele, which is of unknown origin. Meaning "writing pen made from one of the larger feathers of a goose, swan, or other bird" is from 1550s; that of "porcupine spine" is from c. 1600. Quill-pen is attested by 1828, after steel pens or nibs came into use.
fabulous monster mentioned by Ctesias with the body of a lion, head of a man, porcupine quills, and tail or sting of a scorpion, c. 1300, from Latin manticora, from Greek mantikhoras, corruption of martikhoras, perhaps from Iranian compound *mar-tiya-khvara "man-eater."
The first element is represented by Old Persian maritya- "man," from PIE *mar-t-yo-, from *mer- "to die," thus "mortal, human;" from PIE root *mer- "to rub away, harm" (also "to die" and forming words referring to death and to beings subject to death). The second element is represented by Old Persian kvar- "to eat," from PIE root *swel- (1) "to eat, drink" (see swallow (v.)).
Australian egg-laying hedgehog-like mammal, 1810, said to have been named by Cuvier, usually explained as from Greek ekhidna "snake, viper" (also used metaphorically of a treacherous wife or friend), from ekhis "snake," from PIE *angwhi- "snake, eel" (source also of Norwegian igle, Old High German egala, German Egel "leech," Latin anguis "serpent, snake").
But this sense is difficult to reconcile with this animal (unless it is a reference to the ant-eating tongue). The name perhaps belongs to Latin echinus, Greek ekhinos "sea-urchin," originally "hedgehog" (in Greek also "sharp points"), which Watkins explains as "snake-eater," from ekhis "snake." The 1810 Encyclopaedia Britannica gives as the animal's alternative name "porcupine ant-eater." Or, more likely, the name refers to Echidna as the name of a serpent-nymph in Greek mythology, "a beautiful woman in the upper part of her body; but instead of legs and feet, she had from the waist downward, the form of a serpent," in which case the animal was so named for its mixed characteristics (early naturalists doubted whether it was mammal or amphibian).