cold turkey

[ kohld-tur-kee ]
/ ˈkoʊld ˈtɜr ki /

noun Informal.

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



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Idioms for cold turkey

    go cold turkey, Informal.
    1. to stop using an addictive substance abruptly and completely.
    2. to undergo sudden and complete withdrawal from a habitual activity or behavior pattern.
    3. to begin or do something without planning, preparation, or practice.

Origin of cold turkey

An Americanism dating back to 1915–20; probably from the phrase to talk cold turkey “to speak bluntly about something unpleasant,” variant of to talk turkey;see turkey

Definition for cold turkey (2 of 2)

[ kohld-tur-kee ]
/ ˈkoʊldˈtɜr ki /

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. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

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

Cultural 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.