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Idioms about turn

Origin of turn

First recorded before 1000; Middle English verb turnen, partly continuing Old English turnian, tyrnan, from Latin tornāre “to turn in a lathe, round off” (derivative of tornus “lathe,” from Greek tórnos “tool for making circles”), partly from Old French torner, t(o)urner, from Latin, as above; Middle English noun partly derivative of the verb, partly from unattested Anglo-French torn, t(o)urn; Old French tor, t(o)ur, from Latin tornus, as above

synonym study for turn

41. Turn, revolve, rotate, spin indicate moving in a more or less rotary, circular fashion. Turn is the general and popular word for motion on an axis or around a center, but it is used also of motion that is less than a complete circle: A gate turns on its hinges. Revolve refers especially to movement in an orbit around a center, but is sometimes exchangeable with rotate, which refers only to the motion of a body around its own center or axis: The moon revolves about the earth. The earth rotates on its axis. To spin is to rotate very rapidly: A top spins.
88. Turn, cast, twist are colloquial in use and imply a bent, inclination, or habit. Turn means a tendency or inclination for something: a turn for art. Cast means an established habit of thought, manner, or style: a melancholy cast. Twist means a bias: a strange twist of thought.


turn·a·ble, adjectivehalf-turned, adjectiveun·turn·a·ble, adjectiveun·turned, adjective


1. tern, turn 2. intern, inturn, in turn
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


​What is a basic definition of turn?

Turn is a verb that means to rotate. Turn can also mean to change or transform. A turn is a chance to act as part of a rotation or round. The word turn has many other senses as a verb and a noun. Turn is also used in a large number of idioms.

Turn means to cause something to rotate or face a different direction. If you turn a steering wheel, for example, you are making it rotate clockwise (to the right) or counterclockwise (to the left). Turn also means to change direction or rotate. If you are walking north up a street and turn south, for example, you start walking south instead of north.

  • Real-life examples: You turn a bottle of ketchup upside down to get ketchup to come out. You might turn a dial to start a washing machine. If you’re walking west, you need to turn in the opposite direction to walk east.
  • Used in a sentence: I turned the sunflower so that it was facing the sun. 

Turn can also mean to change or transform. Often, this sense of turn is followed by into or to if something is described as changing from one thing into another.

  • Real-life examples: As they age, children turn into adults. Fire can cause wood to turn to ash. You probably shouldn’t eat meat that has turned rotten.
  • Used in a sentence: I left after the friendly cat turned mean. 

A turn is an opportunity to act. Specifically, a turn is a person’s or thing’s reserved time when they get to do something as part of a lineup or round. For example, if children take turns petting a dog, each child waits while the children before them in line pet the dog. Then, they will pet the dog for a bit. When their turn is over, the next child in line will pet the dog. Many games divide up players’ actions into turns as part of the rules.

  • Real-life examples: In chess, players take turns moving pieces. A parent may make their children take turns using a swing. It might be your turn to take out the garbage this week.
  • Used in a sentence: I’ll make sure every kid has a turn to ride the pony. 

Where does turn come from?

The first records of turn come from before the year 1000. It ultimately comes from the Latin tornāre, meaning “to turn in a lathe” or “to round off.” A lathe is a machine that holds a piece of wood or other material and rotates it around a tool that shapes it. The Latin tornāre comes from the Greek tórnos, meaning a “tool for making circles.”

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What are some other forms related to turn?

  • turnable (adjective)
  • half-turned (adjective)
  • unturnable (adjective)
  • unturned (adjective)

What are some synonyms for turn?

What are some words that share a root or word element with turn?

What are some words that often get used in discussing turn?

How is turn used in real life?

Turn is a very common word that means to change direction, to transform, or refers to a person’s chance to act.

Try using turn!

True or False?

If someone turns a newspaper into a hat, they make a newspaper change into a hat.

How to use turn in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for turn

/ (tɜːn) /

See also turn against, turn away, turn down, turn in, turn off, turn on, turn out, turn over, turn to, turn up

Derived forms of turn

turnable, adjective

Word Origin for turn

Old English tyrnian, from Old French torner, from Latin tornāre to turn in a lathe, from tornus lathe, from Greek tornos dividers
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

Other Idioms and Phrases with turn


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.