[ top-see-tur-vee ]
/ ˈtɒp siˈtɜr vi /



turned upside down; inverted; reversed: a topsy-turvy reflection.
confused or disorderly: a topsy-turvy classroom.

noun, plural top·sy-tur·vies.

inversion of the natural order.
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. 2019

Examples from the Web for topsy-turvy

British Dictionary definitions for topsy-turvy


/ (ˈtɒpsɪˈtɜːvɪ) /


upside down
in a state of confusion


in a topsy-turvy manner


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