[ tur-tl ]
/ ˈtɜr tl /

noun, plural tur·tles, (especially collectively) tur·tle.

any reptile of the order Testudines, comprising aquatic and terrestrial species having the trunk enclosed in a shell consisting of a dorsal carapace and a ventral plastron.
(not used technically) an aquatic turtle as distinguished from a terrestrial one.Compare tortoise(def 1).

verb (used without object), tur·tled, tur·tling.

to catch turtles, especially as a business.


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Idioms for turtle

    turn turtle,
    1. Nautical. to capsize or turn over completely in foundering.
    2. to overturn; upset: Several of the cars turned turtle in the course of the race.

Origin of turtle

1625–35; alteration (influenced by turtle2) of French tortue < Medieval Latin tortūca tortoise


tur·tler, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

British Dictionary definitions for turn turtle (1 of 2)

/ (ˈtɜːtəl) /


any of various aquatic chelonian reptiles, esp those of the marine family Chelonidae, having a flattened shell enclosing the body and flipper-like limbs adapted for swimmingRelated adjectives: chelonian, testudinal
US and Canadian any of the chelonian reptiles, including the tortoises and terrapins
nautical a zip bag made as part of a spinnaker for holding the sail so that it can be set rapidly
turn turtle to capsize


(intr) to catch or hunt turtles

Derived forms of turtle

turtler, noun

Word Origin for turtle

C17: from French tortue tortoise (influenced by turtle ²)

British Dictionary definitions for turn turtle (2 of 2)

/ (ˈtɜːtəl) /


an archaic name for turtledove

Word Origin for turtle

Old English turtla, from Latin turtur, of imitative origin; related to German Turteltaube
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

Idioms and Phrases with turn turtle (1 of 2)

turn turtle

Capsize, turn upside down, as in When they collided, the car turned turtle. This expression alludes to the helplessness of a turtle turned on its back, where its shell can no longer protect it. [First half of 1800s]

Idioms and Phrases with turn turtle (2 of 2)


see turn turtle.

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