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  1. any of several edible North American turtles of the family Emydidae, inhabiting fresh or brackish waters, especially the diamondback terrapin: some are threatened or endangered.
  2. any of various similar turtles.
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Origin of terrapin

1605–15; earlier torope (< Virginia Algonquian < Eastern Algonquian *to·rəpe·w variety of turtle > Munsee Delaware tó·lpe·w) + -in, of uncertain origin
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for terrapin


  1. any of various web-footed chelonian reptiles that live on land and in fresh water and feed on small aquatic animals: family EmydidaeAlso called: water tortoise
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Word Origin

C17: of Algonquian origin; compare Delaware torope turtle
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 terrapin


North American turtle, 1670s, earlier torope (1610s), from an Algonquian source (e.g. Abenaki turepe, Delaware tulpe "turtle"). Subsequently extended to allied species in South America, East Indies, China, North Africa.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper