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See more synonyms for turmoil on Thesaurus.com
  1. a state of great commotion, confusion, or disturbance; tumult; agitation; disquiet: mental turmoil caused by difficult decisions.
  2. Obsolete. harassing labor.
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Origin of turmoil

1505–15; orig. as v.: to agitate; etymology uncertain; perhaps tur(n) + moil


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Synonym study

1. See agitation.


Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for turmoil

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • Hast thou heard the saying of Gwgan, After escaping from the turmoil?

    Y Gododin


  • All the agitation and turmoil of the last few months seemed to fall away from him.

    The Avenger

    E. Phillips Oppenheim

  • I have so often come to them from the heat and turmoil of controversy.

    Mountain Meditations

    L. Lind-af-Hageby

  • Just think of it—all that fuss and all that turmoil over something so obvious.

    Mountain Meditations

    L. Lind-af-Hageby

  • Then, in the turmoil of his mind, there was no thought of the girl.

    The World Beyond

    Raymond King Cummings

British Dictionary definitions for turmoil


  1. violent or confused movement; agitation; tumult
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  1. archaic to make or become turbulent
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Word Origin

C16: perhaps from turn + moil
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 turmoil


1520s, perhaps an alteration of Middle French tremouille "mill hopper," in reference to the hopper's constant motion to and fro, from Latin trimodia "vessel containing three modii," from modius, a Roman dry measure, related to modus "measure." Attested earlier in English as a verb (1510s), though this now is obsolete.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper