- a horny substance of a mottled brown and yellow coloration, composing the laminae that cover the inner body plates of the carapace of certain tortoises or turtles, especially the hawksbill, used for making combs and ornamental articles, inlaying, etc.
- any synthetic substance made to look like natural tortoiseshell.
- Also tortoiseshell butterfly. any of several nymphalid butterflies of the genus Nymphalis, as N. californica, having variegated markings of red, yellow, or orange on the wings.
- mottled or variegated like tortoiseshell, especially with yellow and brown and sometimes other colors.
- made of tortoiseshell.
Origin of tortoiseshell
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018
Examples from the Web for tortoiseshell
And seeing that the Minister was looking over his tortoiseshell.The Burning Spear
Lady Harriet took up a tortoiseshell paper-knife and played with it.Double Harness
But tortoiseshell and white he-cats are occasionally to be seen.The Cat
Philip M. Rule
It is usually supposed that a tortoiseshell Tom is an impossibility.The Book of Cats
Charles H. Ross
In two hours Nakeesa has filled the tortoiseshell and returns to her man.Tales of South Africa
- a horny translucent yellow-and-brown mottled substance obtained from the outer layer of the shell of the hawksbill turtle: used for making ornaments, jewellery, etc
- a similar synthetic substance, esp plastic or celluloid, now more widely used than the natural product
- a breed of domestic cat, usually female, having black, cream, and brownish markings
- any of several nymphalid butterflies of the genus Nymphalis, and related genera, having orange-brown wings with black markings
- tortoiseshell turtle another name for hawksbill turtle
- a yellowish-brown mottled colour
- (as adjective)a tortoiseshell décor
- (modifier) made of tortoiseshella tortoiseshell comb
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