The ancient word for today is hedgehog Erinaceus europaeus. In the Middle Ages, writers didn’t make reference to hedgehogs, but to urchins. A term still favoured in some English dialects. It’s also associated with the sea urchin, which is literally a sea hedgehog.
The word urchin came over to England with the Norman invasion and was derived from the Latin word ericius. Before the Norman conquest, the animal was known by the Anglo-Saxon name Igl.
Furze-pig – Devon
Hotchi-witchi – Romani
Hodmedods – Norfolk
Ouriço cacheiro – crafty pig
or porco espinho’ – spiky pig in Portuguese
”Thorns shall grow in their palaces, nettles & thistles in their strongholds … there shall the hedgehog build, dig, be there at home and bring forth his young ones.” Taverner’s Isiah 34, 1539.
The hedgehog was a symbol of Christian humility
The Speculum sapientiae, or Mirror of Wisdom is an ancient tale of beasts in Latin. In one tale, a passing goat sees its reflection in a pond and declares himself very handsome indeed. A hedgehog trundles along afterwards and reproaches the goat telling him that profound humility, not vain boasting are what makes animals truly noble.
2 thoughts on “Ancient word of the day: Hedgehog”
Great little animals. One of the highlights of childhood was having these guys turn up in the garden
Me too! Its still a highlight seeing them around the place for me hehe