verb (used with object)

to withdraw from (an addictive substance or a habit) abruptly and completely.

verb (used without object)

to withdraw from an addictive substance or a habit abruptly and completely.


abrupt and complete: cold-turkey withdrawal from drugs.

Nearby words

  1. cold-pressed,
  2. cold-roll,
  3. cold-rolled,
  4. cold-shoulder,
  5. cold-store,
  6. cold-water,
  7. cold-water flat,
  8. cold-weld,
  9. cold-work,
  10. colden

cold turkey

noun Informal.

abrupt and complete withdrawal from the use of an addictive substance, as a narcotic drug, alcohol, or tobacco.

Origin of cold turkey

1915–20, Americanism; probably from the phrase to talk cold turkey to speak bluntly about something unpleasant, variant of to talk turkey; see turkey Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for cold-turkey

cold turkey


slang a method of curing drug addiction by abrupt withdrawal of all doses
the withdrawal symptoms, esp nausea and shivering, brought on by this method
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

Word Origin and History for cold-turkey

cold turkey

"without preparation," 1910; narrower sense of "withdrawal from an addictive substance" (originally heroin) first recorded 1921. Cold turkey is a food that requires little preparation, so "to quit like cold turkey" is to do so suddenly and without preparation. Cf. cold shoulder.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Culture definitions for cold-turkey

cold turkey

To “go cold turkey” is to withdraw suddenly and completely from an addictive substance or some other form of dependency: “Many people who attempt to quit smoking do so by going cold turkey rather than by gradually cutting down.”

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with cold-turkey

cold turkey

Immediate, complete withdrawal from something, especially an addictive substance; also, without planning or preparation. For example, My bad shoulder forced me to quit playing tennis cold turkey, or I'd never done any rock climbing, but decided to try it cold turkey. This term may have come from the earlier expression talk turkey (for blunt speaking). At first used strictly for abrupt withdrawal from drugs or alcohol, it soon was transferred to quitting any habit or activity. [Early 1900s]

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.