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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. 2016.
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Examples from the Web for tortoise
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The first lawyer, you know, was a waif that was adopted by a tortoise and a fox.

    Memoirs of a Midget Walter de la Mare
  • Another manoeuvre of the tortoise was to seize the tail of its antagonist.

    The Forest Exiles Mayne Reid
  • Jimmy Kinsella sat on a stone with his back to the party in the tortoise.

    Priscilla's Spies George A. Birmingham
  • The latter was the weapon with which the tortoise was to be killed.

    The Forest Exiles Mayne Reid
  • Priscilla, rowing with short, decisive strokes, drove the tortoise forward.

    Priscilla's Spies George A. Birmingham
  • There are three characters in the story: the Hare, the tortoise and the Fox.

    Journeys Through Bookland, Vol. 10 Charles Herbert Sylvester
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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tortoise in the Bible

(Heb. tsabh). Ranked among the unclean animals (Lev. 11:29). Land tortoises are common in Syria. The LXX. renders the word by "land crocodile." The word, however, more probably denotes a lizard, called by the modern Arabs _dhabb_.

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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