See more synonyms for topsy-turvy on
  1. with the top where the bottom should be; upside down.
  2. in or into a reversed condition or order.
  3. in or into a state of confusion or disorder.
  1. turned upside down; inverted; reversed: a topsy-turvy reflection.
  2. confused or disorderly: a topsy-turvy classroom.
noun, plural top·sy-tur·vies.
  1. inversion of the natural order.
  2. a state of confusion or disorder.

Origin of topsy-turvy

1520–30; perhaps variant of top syd turvye topside down (with loss of d before t); turvy, variant of tervy, equivalent to obsolete terve to turn over (cognate with Old High German zerben) + -y1
Related formstop·sy-tur·vi·ly, adverbtop·sy·tur·vi·ness, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for topsy-turvy

Contemporary Examples of topsy-turvy

Historical Examples of topsy-turvy

  • Why cannot he carry his zeal for topsy-turvy horticulture elsewhere?

    Views and Reviews

    William Ernest Henley

  • We may read this cable wrong but it seems to us to embody a topsy-turvy tactic!

  • It was a topsy-turvy world in which the dogs found themselves of late.

    Mary Gray

    Katharine Tynan

  • It was her introduction to the topsy-turvy world into which she had come.


    Edna Ferber

  • It was that topsy-turvy product—an "exclusive" commercial enterprise.

British Dictionary definitions for topsy-turvy


  1. upside down
  2. in a state of confusion
  1. in a topsy-turvy manner
  1. a topsy-turvy state

Word Origin for topsy-turvy

C16: probably from tops, plural of top 1 + obsolete tervy to turn upside down; perhaps related to Old English tearflian to roll over
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 topsy-turvy
adv., adj.

1520s, "but prob. in popular use from an earlier period" [OED], likely from tops, plural of top (n.1) "highest point" + obsolete terve "turn upside down, topple over," from Old English tearflian "to roll over, overturn," from Proto-Germanic *terbanan (cf. Old High German zerben "to turn round"). The Century Dictionary (1902) calls it "A word which, owing to its popular nature, its alliterative type, and to ignorance of its origin, leading to various perversions made to suggest some plausible origin, has undergone, besides the usual variations of spelling, extraordinary modifications of form." It lists 31 variations.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper