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[tawr-tuh s] /ˈtɔr təs/
a turtle, especially a terrestrial turtle.
a very slow person or thing.
testudo (def 1).
Origin of tortoise
1350-1400; variant of earlier (15th-century) tortuse, tortose, tortuce, Middle English tortuca < Medieval Latin tortūca, for Late Latin tartarūcha (feminine adj.) of Tartarus (< Greek tartaroûcha), the tortoise being regarded as an infernal animal; Medieval Latin form influenced by Latin tortus crooked, twisted (see tort) Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for tortoise
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • I had, too, and I own it was absurd, a tortoise named Chrysagre.

    My Double Life Sarah Bernhardt
  • The tortoise in the right road will beat a racer in the wrong.

    Self-Help Samuel Smiles
  • With these words he took his tortoise on his back and went off.

  • Gone were the figs and almonds, the indigo, ivory, tortoise shells.

    The Harbor Ernest Poole
  • Nolens Volens tries it by a process like "Achilles and the tortoise."

    A Tangled Tale Lewis Carroll
  • The pot-boy's movements resembled those of a tortoise in celerity.

    A Son of Hagar

    Sir Hall Caine
British Dictionary definitions for tortoise


any herbivorous terrestrial chelonian reptile of the family Testudinidae, of most warm regions, having a heavy dome-shaped shell and clawed limbs related adjectives chelonian testudinal
water tortoise, another name for terrapin
a slow-moving person
another word for testudo See also giant tortoise
Word Origin
C15: probably from Old French tortue (influenced by Latin tortus twisted), from Medieval Latin tortūca, from Late Latin tartarūcha coming from Tartarus, from Greek tartaroukhos; referring to the belief that the tortoise originated in the underworld
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 tortoise

1550s, altered (perhaps by influence of porpoise) from Middle English tortuse (late 15c.), tortuce (mid-15c.), tortuge (late 14c.), from Medieval Latin tortuca (mid-13c.), perhaps from Late Latin tartaruchus "of the underworld" (see turtle). Others propose a connection with Latin tortus "twisted," based on the shape of the feet. The classical Latin word was testudo, from testa "shell." First record of tortoise shell as a coloring pattern is from 1782.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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