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[turn-kee] /ˈtɜrnˌki/
noun, plural turnkeys.
a person who has charge of the keys of a prison; jailer.
Also, turn-key. of, relating to, or resulting from an arrangement under which a private contractor designs and constructs a project, building, etc., for sale when completely ready for occupancy or operation:
turn-key housing, turnkey contract.
fully equipped; ready to go into operation:
a turnkey business.
Origin of turnkey
First recorded in 1645-55; turn + key1 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for turnkey
Historical Examples
  • The turnkey gave it as the result of his experience that some of 'em was and some of 'em wasn't.

    Little Dorrit Charles Dickens
  • Upon which door the turnkey knocked with the handle of his key.

    Little Dorrit Charles Dickens
  • But the turnkey thanked them, and said, 'No, on the whole it was enough to see other people's children there.'

    Little Dorrit Charles Dickens
  • So, the turnkey thought about it all his life, and died intestate after all.

    Little Dorrit Charles Dickens
  • As it approached, there was not a Collegian within doors, nor a turnkey absent.

    Little Dorrit Charles Dickens
  • Whenever the turnkey was coming he was groaning and moaning on the bed.

  • The turnkey fired the little pile, which blazed high and hot.

    A Tale of Two Cities Charles Dickens
  • In the morning he was aroused by the turnkey and brought out of his cell.

    Louisiana Lou William West Winter
  • Above the general din he heard the detestable voice of the turnkey.

  • It was past the hour when any further visit from the turnkey might be expected.

    Confessions Of Con Cregan Charles James Lever
British Dictionary definitions for turnkey


(archaic) a keeper of the keys, esp in a prison; warder or jailer
denoting a project, as in civil engineering, in which a single contractor has responsibility for the complete job from the start to the time of installation or occupancy
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 turnkey

1650s, "jailer," from turn (v.) + key (n.). In reference to a job that only has to be done once, it is recorded from 1934. The notion is of locking up afterward.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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