[tur-byuh-luh ns]
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  1. the quality or state of being turbulent; violent disorder or commotion.
  2. Hydraulics. the haphazard secondary motion caused by eddies within a moving fluid.
  3. Meteorology. irregular motion of the atmosphere, as that indicated by gusts and lulls in the wind.
Sometimes tur·bu·len·cy.

Origin of turbulence

From the Late Latin word turbulentia, dating back to 1590–1600. See turbulent, -ence
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for turbulence


rarely turbulency (ˈtɜːbjʊˌlənsɪ)

  1. a state or condition of confusion, movement, or agitation; disorder
  2. meteorol local instability in the atmosphere, oceans, or rivers
  3. turbulent flow in a liquid or gas
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 turbulence

1590s; see turbulent + -ence.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

turbulence in Science


  1. Chaotic or unstable eddying motion in a fluid. Avoiding excessive turbulence generated around moving objects (such as airplanes), which can make their motion inefficient and difficult to control, is a major factor in aerodynamic design.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.