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[top-see-tur-vee] /ˈtɒp siˈtɜr vi/
with the top where the bottom should be; upside down.
in or into a reversed condition or order.
in or into a state of confusion or disorder.
turned upside down; inverted; reversed:
a topsy-turvy reflection.
confused or disorderly:
a topsy-turvy classroom.
noun, plural topsy-turvies.
inversion of the natural order.
a state of confusion or disorder.
Origin of topsy-turvy
1520-30; perhaps variant of top syd turvye topside down (with loss of d before t); turvy, variant of tervy, equivalent to obsolete terve to turn over (cognate with Old High German zerben) + -y1
Related forms
topsy-turvily, adverb
topsyturviness, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for topsy-turvy
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Why cannot he carry his zeal for topsy-turvy horticulture elsewhere?

    Views and Reviews William Ernest Henley
  • We may read this cable wrong but it seems to us to embody a topsy-turvy tactic!

  • It was a topsy-turvy world in which the dogs found themselves of late.

    Mary Gray Katharine Tynan
  • It was her introduction to the topsy-turvy world into which she had come.

    Gigolo Edna Ferber
  • It was that topsy-turvy product—an "exclusive" commercial enterprise.

  • Yes—the revolution that turns us all topsy-turvy—the revolution of Love.

    The Lady of Lyons Edward Bulwer Lytton
  • This is topsy-turvy reasoning, of course, but at the same time it is suggestive.

    The Merry-Go-Round Carl Van Vechten
  • It was a dreary, desolate night that he spent in the topsy-turvy cottage.

    What's-His-Name George Barr McCutcheon
British Dictionary definitions for topsy-turvy


upside down
in a state of confusion
in a topsy-turvy manner
a topsy-turvy state
Word Origin
C16: probably from tops, plural of top1 + obsolete tervy to turn upside down; perhaps related to Old English tearflian to roll over
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for topsy-turvy
adv., adj.

1520s, "but prob. in popular use from an earlier period" [OED], likely from tops, plural of top (n.1) "highest point" + obsolete terve "turn upside down, topple over," from Old English tearflian "to roll over, overturn," from Proto-Germanic *terbanan (cf. Old High German zerben "to turn round"). The Century Dictionary (1902) calls it "A word which, owing to its popular nature, its alliterative type, and to ignorance of its origin, leading to various perversions made to suggest some plausible origin, has undergone, besides the usual variations of spelling, extraordinary modifications of form." It lists 31 variations.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for topsy-turvy



Disordered; upside down (1528+)

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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