[ turn ]
See synonyms for turn on Thesaurus.com
verb (used with object)
  1. to cause to move around on an axis or about a center; rotate: to turn a wheel.

  2. to cause to move around or partly around, as for the purpose of opening, closing, or tightening: to turn a key;to turn the cap of a bottle.

  1. to reverse the position or placement of: to turn a page;to turn an egg;to turn a person around.

  2. to bring the lower layers of (sod, soil, etc.) to the surface, as in plowing.

  3. to change the position of, by or as if by rotating; move into a different position: to turn the handle one notch.

  4. to change or alter the course of; divert; deflect: He turned the blow with his arm.

  5. to change the focus or tendency of: She skillfully turned the conversation away from so unpleasant a subject.

  6. to reverse the progress of; cause to retreat: The police turned the advancing rioters by firing over their heads.

  7. to change or alter the nature, character, or appearance of: Worry turned his hair gray.

  8. to change or convert (usually followed by into or to): to turn water into ice;to turn tears into laughter.

  9. to render or make by some change: Fear turned him cowardly and craven.

  10. to change the color of (leaves).

  11. to cause to become sour, to ferment, or the like: Warm weather turns milk.

  12. to cause (the stomach) to reject food, liquid, etc.; affect with nausea.

  13. to change from one language or form of expression to another; translate.

  14. to put or apply to some use or purpose: He turned his mind to practical matters.

  15. to go or pass around or to the other side of: to turn a street corner.

  16. to get beyond or pass (a certain age, time, amount, etc.): His son just turned four.

  17. to direct, aim, or set toward, away from, or in a specified direction: to turn the car toward the center of town;to turn one's back to the audience.

  18. to direct (the eyes, face, etc.) another way; avert.

  19. to shape (a piece of metal, wood, etc.) into rounded form with a cutting tool while rotating the piece on a lathe.

  20. to bring into a rounded or curved form in any way.

  21. to shape artistically or gracefully, especially in rounded form.

  22. to form or express gracefully: to turn a phrase well.

  23. to direct (thought, attention, desire, etc.) toward or away from something.

  24. to cause to go; send; drive: to turn a person from one's door.

  25. to revolve in the mind; ponder (often followed by over): He turned the idea over a couple of times before acting on it.

  26. to persuade (a person) to change or reorder the course of their life.

  27. to cause to be prejudiced against: to turn a son against his father.

  28. to maintain a steady flow or circulation of (money or articles of commerce).

  29. to earn or gain:He turned a huge profit on the sale.

  30. to reverse or remake (a garment, shirt collar, etc.) so that the inner side becomes the outer.

  31. to pour from one container into another by inverting.

  32. to curve, bend, or twist.

  33. to twist out of position or sprain; wrench: He turned his ankle.

  34. to bend back or blunt (the edge of a blade).

  35. to perform (a gymnastic feat) by rotating or revolving: to turn a somersault.

  36. to disorder or upset the placement or condition of: He turned the room upside down.

  37. to disturb the balance of (the mind); drive to distraction; make crazy or insane: In the same year his three sons and his mother died, and grief turned his mind.

  38. Obsolete.

    • to convert.

    • to pervert.

verb (used without object)
  1. to move around on an axis or about a center; rotate.

  2. to move partly around through the arc of a circle, as a door on a hinge.

  1. to hinge or depend (usually followed by on or upon): The question turns on this point.

  2. to direct or set one's course toward, away from, or in a particular direction.

  3. to direct the face or gaze toward or away from someone or something.

  4. to direct one's thought, attention, desire, etc., toward or away from someone or something.

  5. to give or apply one's interest, attention, effort, etc., to something; devote oneself: He turned to the study and practice of medicine.

  6. to change or reverse a course so as to go in a different or the opposite direction: to turn to the right.

  7. to change position so as to face in a different or the opposite direction.

  8. to change or reverse position or posture as by a rotary motion.

  9. to shift the body about as if on an axis: to turn on one's side while sleeping.

  10. to assume a curved form; bend.

  11. to become blunted or dulled by bending, as the cutting edge of a knife or saw.

  12. to be affected with nausea, as the stomach.

  13. to be affected with giddiness or dizziness; have a sensation of whirling or reeling.

  14. to adopt religion, a manner of life, etc., especially as differing from a previous position or attitude: He turned to Christianity in his old age.

  15. to change or transfer one's loyalties; defect: He turned from the Democrats and joined the Republicans.

  16. to change an attitude or policy: to turn in favor of someone;to turn against a person.

  17. to change or alter, as in nature, character, or appearance.

  18. to become sour, rancid, fermented, or the like, as milk or butter.

  19. to change color: The leaves began to turn in October.

  20. to change so as to be; become: a lawyer turned poet;to turn pale.

  21. to become mentally unbalanced or distracted.

  22. to put about or tack, as a ship.

  23. Journalism. (of copy) to run either from the bottom of the last column on one page to the top of the first column on the following page or from one column on a page to the expected place in the next column on the page (opposed to jump def. 20).

  1. a movement of partial or total rotation: a slight turn of the handle.

  2. an act of changing or reversing position or posture, as by a rotary movement: a turn of the head.

  1. a time or opportunity for action which comes in due rotation or order to each of a number of persons, animals, etc.: It's my turn to pay the bill.

  2. an act of changing or reversing the course or direction: to make a turn to the left.

  3. a place or point at which such a change occurs.

  4. a place where a road, river, or the like turns; bend: About a mile ahead, you'll come to a turn in the road.

  5. a single revolution, as of a wheel.

  6. an act of turning so as to face or go in a different direction.

  7. direction, drift, or trend: The conversation took an interesting turn.

  8. any change, as in nature, character, condition, affairs, circumstances, etc.; alteration; modification: a turn for the better.

  9. the point or time of change.

  10. the time during which a worker or a set of workers is at work in alternation with others.

  11. that which is done by each of a number of persons acting in rotation or succession.

  12. rounded or curved form.

  13. the shape or mold in which something is formed or cast.

  14. a passing or twisting of one thing around another, as of a rope around a mast.

  15. the state of or a manner of being twisted.

  16. a single circular or convoluted shape, as of a coiled or wound rope.

  17. a small latch operated by a turning knob or lever.

  18. style, as of expression or language.

  19. a distinctive form or style imparted: a happy turn of expression.

  20. a short walk, ride, or the like out and back, especially by different routes: Let's go for a turn in the park.

  21. a natural inclination, bent, tendency, or aptitude: one's turn of mind.

  22. a spell or period of work; shift.

  23. a spell or bout of action or activity, especially in wrestling.

  24. an attack of illness or the like.

  25. an act of service or disservice: He once did her a good turn.She repaid it with a bad turn.

  26. requirement, exigency, or need: This will serve your turn.

  27. treatment or rendering, especially with reference to the form or content of a work of literature, art, etc.; twist: He gave the story a new turn.

  28. Informal. a nervous shock, as from fright or astonishment: It certainly gave me quite a turn to see him.

  29. Stock Exchange. a complete securities transaction that includes both a purchase and sale.

  30. Music. a melodic embellishment or grace, commonly consisting of a principal tone with two auxiliary tones, one above and the other below it.

  31. Chiefly British. an individual stage performance, especially in a vaudeville theater or music hall.

  32. Military. a drill movement by which a formation changes fronts.

  33. a contest or round; a bout, as in wrestling.

Verb Phrases
  1. turn back,

    • to retrace one's footsteps; turn around to return.

    • to cause to go no further or to return, as by not welcoming; send away.

    • to fold (a blanket, sheet of paper, etc.) on itself: Turn back the page to keep the place.

  2. turn down,

    • to turn over; fold down.

    • to lower in intensity; lessen.

    • to refuse or reject (a person, request, etc.): The Marine Corps turned him down.

  1. turn heel,

    • to reverse position in order to flee or retreat: Those cowards turned heel and ran away!

    • Professional Wrestling. to adopt a villainous heel role: It’s not unusual for a wrestler’s popularity to soar when he turns heel.

  2. turn in,

    • to hand in; submit: to turn in a resignation.

    • to inform on or deliver up: She promptly turned him in to the police.

    • to turn from one path or course into another; veer.

    • Informal. to go to bed; retire: I never turn in before eleven o'clock.

  3. turn into,

    • to drive a vehicle or to walk into (a street, store, etc.): We turned into the dead-end street.He turned into the saloon at the corner.

    • to be changed, transformed, or converted into: He has turned into a very pleasant fellow.The caterpillar turned into a butterfly.

  4. turn off,

    • to stop the flow of (water, gas, etc.), as by closing a faucet or valve.

    • to switch off (a light).

    • to stop the operation of (a machine, device, etc.): Don’t forget to turn off the oven.Turn off your phones during the exam.

    • to divert; deflect.

    • to diverge or branch off, as a side road from a main road.

    • to drive a vehicle or walk onto (a side road) from a main road: You turn off at 96th Street.Turn off the highway on the dirt road.

    • Slang. to stop listening: You could see him turn off as the speaker droned on.

    • Slang. to disaffect, alienate, or disgust.

    • Chiefly British. to discharge an employee.

  5. turn on,

    • to cause (water, gas, etc.) to flow, as by opening a valve.

    • to switch on (a light).

    • to put (a machine, device, etc.) into operation; activate: Roll down the windows and turn on the radio.

    • to start suddenly to affect or show: She turned on the charm and won him over.

    • Slang. to induce (a person) to start taking a narcotic drug.

    • Slang. to take a narcotic drug.

    • Slang. to arouse or excite the interest of; engage: the first lecture that really turned me on.

    • Slang. to arouse sexually.

    • Also turn upon. to become suddenly hostile to: The dog turned on its owner.

  6. turn out,

    • to extinguish (a light).

    • to produce as the result of labor: She turned out four tapestries a year.

    • to drive out; dismiss; discharge: a premier turned out of office.

    • to fit out; dress; equip.

    • to unfold or develop toward a conclusion.

    • to come to be; become ultimately.

    • to be found or known; prove.

    • to be present at; appear.

    • Informal. to get out of bed.

    • Nautical. to order (a seaman or seamen) from quarters for duty.

    • to cause to turn outward, as the toes.

  7. turn over,

    • to move or be moved from one side to another.

    • to put in reverse position; invert.

    • to consider; meditate; ponder.

    • to transfer; give.

    • to start (an engine): He turned over the car motor.

    • (of an engine) to start: The motor turned over without any trouble.

    • Commerce. to purchase and then sell (goods or commodities).

    • Commerce. to do business or sell goods to the amount of (a specified sum).

    • Commerce. to invest or recover (capital) in some transaction or in the course of business.

  8. turn to,

    • to apply to for aid; appeal to: When he was starting out as an artist he turned to his friends for loans.

    • to begin to attend to or work at something: After the storm we turned to and cleaned up the debris.

    • to change to: The ice turned to water.

  9. turn up,

    • to fold (material, a hem, cuffs, etc.) up or over in order to alter a garment.

    • to bring to the surface by digging: to turn up a shovelful of earth.

    • to uncover; find.

    • to intensify or increase.

    • to happen; occur: Let's wait and see what turns up.

    • to appear; arrive: She turned up at the last moment.

    • to be recovered: I'm sure your watch will turn up eventually.

    • to come to notice; be seen.

Idioms about turn

  1. at every turn, in every case or instance; constantly: We met with kindness at every turn.

  2. by turns, one after another; in rotation or succession; alternately: They did their shopping and cleaning by turns.

  1. hand's turn, a period or piece of work: It won't be necessary for you to do a hand's turn yourself, but rather to supervise.

  2. in turn, in due order of succession: Each generation in turn must grapple with the same basic problems.

  3. on the turn, on the verge or in the process of turning; changing: She said she hoped to be alive to see the century on the turn.

  4. out of turn,

    • not in the correct succession; out of proper order.

    • at an unsuitable time; imprudently; indiscreetly: He spoke out of turn and destroyed the cordial atmosphere of the meeting.

  5. take turns, to succeed one another in order; rotate; alternate: They took turns walking the dog.

  6. to a turn, to just the proper degree; to perfection: The steak was done to a turn.

  7. turn and turn about, by turns: They fought the fire, turn and turn about, until daybreak.

  8. turn one's hand to. hand (def. 90).

  9. turn the tables. table (def. 24).

  10. turn the tide. tide1 (def. 16).

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.

Other words for turn

Other words from turn

  • turn·a·ble, adjective
  • half-turned, adjective
  • un·turn·a·ble, adjective
  • un·turned, adjective

Words that may be confused with turn

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use turn in a sentence

  • The intricacies and abrupt turns in the road separated him from his immediate followers.

  • He has drawn a knave and a six; he takes another card; this turns out to be an ace.

  • War turns them from making the glittering superfluities of peace to making its grim engines of destruction.

  • Death comes in, the bread at the feast turns black, the hound falls down—and so on.

    The Wave | Algernon Blackwood
  • Railroads are reckless Radicals and are destined by turns to make and to mar the fortunes of many great emporiums.

    Glances at Europe | Horace Greeley

British Dictionary definitions for turn


/ (tɜːn) /

  1. to move or cause to move around an axis: a wheel turning; to turn a knob

  2. (sometimes foll by round) to change or cause to change positions by moving through an arc of a circle: he turned the chair to face the light

  1. to change or cause to change in course, direction, etc: he turned left at the main road

  2. (of soldiers, ships, etc) to alter the direction of advance by changing direction simultaneously or (of a commander) to cause the direction of advance to be altered simultaneously

  3. to go or pass to the other side of (a corner, etc)

  4. to assume or cause to assume a rounded, curved, or folded form: the road turns here

  5. to reverse or cause to reverse position

  6. (tr) to pass round (an enemy or enemy position) so as to attack it from the flank or rear: the Germans turned the Maginot line

  7. (tr) to perform or do by a rotating movement: to turn a somersault

  8. (tr) to shape or cut a thread in (a workpiece, esp one of metal, wood, or plastic) by rotating it on a lathe against a fixed cutting tool

  9. (when intr, foll by into or to) to change or convert or be changed or converted: the alchemists tried to turn base metals into gold

  10. (foll by into) to change or cause to change in nature, character, etc: the frog turned into a prince

  11. (copula) to change so as to become: he turned nasty when he heard the price

  12. to cause (foliage, etc) to change colour or (of foliage, etc) to change colour: frost turned the trees a vivid orange

  13. to cause (milk, etc) to become rancid or sour or (of milk, etc) to become rancid or sour

  14. to change or cause to change in subject, trend, etc: the conversation turned to fishing

  15. to direct or apply or be directed or applied: he turned his attention to the problem

  16. (intr usually foll by to) to appeal or apply (to) for help, advice, etc: she was very frightened and didn't know where to turn

  17. to reach, pass, or progress beyond in age, time, etc: she has just turned twenty

  18. (tr) to cause or allow to go: to turn an animal loose

  19. to affect or be affected with nausea: the sight of the dead body turned his stomach

  20. to affect or be affected with giddiness: my head is turning

  21. (tr) to affect the mental or emotional stability of (esp in the phrase turn (someone's) head)

  22. (tr) to release from a container: she turned the fruit into a basin

  23. (tr) to render into another language

  24. (usually foll by against or from) to transfer or reverse or cause to transfer or reverse (one's loyalties, affections, etc)

  25. (tr) to cause (an enemy agent) to become a double agent working for one's own side: the bureau turned some of the spies it had caught

  26. (tr) to bring (soil) from lower layers to the surface

  27. to blunt (an edge) or (of an edge) to become blunted

  28. (tr) to give a graceful form to: to turn a compliment

  29. (tr) to reverse (a cuff, collar, etc) in order to hide the outer worn side

  30. (intr) US to be merchandised as specified: shirts are turning well this week

  31. cricket to spin (the ball) or (of the ball) to spin

  32. turn one's hand to to undertake (something, esp something practical)

  33. turn tail to run away; flee

  34. turn the tables on someone See table (def. 17)

  35. turn the tide to reverse the general course of events

  1. an act or instance of turning or the state of being turned or the material turned: a turn of a rope around a bollard

  2. a movement of complete or partial rotation

  1. a change or reversal of direction or position

  2. direction or drift: his thoughts took a new turn

  3. a deviation or departure from a course or tendency

  4. the place, point, or time at which a deviation or change occurs

  5. another word for turning (def. 1)

  6. the right or opportunity to do something in an agreed order or succession: we'll take turns to play; now it's George's turn; you must not play out of turn

  7. a change in nature, condition, etc: his illness took a turn for the worse

  8. a period of action, work, etc

  9. a short walk, ride, or excursion: to take a turn in the park

  10. natural inclination: he is of a speculative turn of mind; she has a turn for needlework

  11. distinctive form or style: a neat turn of phrase

  12. requirement, need, or advantage: to serve someone's turn

  13. a deed performed that helps or hinders someone: to do an old lady a good turn

  14. a twist, bend, or distortion in shape

  15. music a melodic ornament that makes a turn around a note, beginning with the note above, in a variety of sequences

  16. theatre, mainly British a short theatrical act, esp in music hall, cabaret, etc

  17. stock exchange

    • British the difference between a market maker's bid and offer prices, representing the market maker's profit

    • a transaction including both a purchase and a sale

  18. a military manoeuvre in which men or ships alter their direction of advance together

  19. Australian slang a party

  20. informal a shock or surprise: the bad news gave her quite a turn

  21. at every turn on all sides or occasions

  22. by turns one after another; alternately

  23. on the turn informal

    • at the point of change

    • about to go rancid

  24. out of turn

    • not in the correct or agreed order of succession

    • improperly, inappropriately, or inopportunely

  25. the turn poker slang the fourth community card to be dealt face-up in a round of Texas hold ’em

  26. turn and turn about one after another; alternately

  27. to a turn to the proper amount; perfectly: cooked to a turn

Origin of turn

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

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


In addition to the idioms beginning with turn

  • turn a blind eye to
  • turn a deaf ear
  • turn against
  • turn a hair, not
  • turn around
  • turn around one's finger
  • turn a trick
  • turn away
  • turn back
  • turn down
  • turn for the better
  • turn in
  • turn in one's grave
  • turn off
  • turn of phrase
  • turn of the century
  • turn of the tide
  • turn on
  • turn one's back on
  • turn one's hand to
  • turn one's head
  • turn one's stomach
  • turn on one's heel
  • turn on the waterworks
  • turn out
  • turn out all right
  • turn over
  • turn over a new leaf
  • turn over in one's grave
  • turn tail
  • turn the clock back
  • turn the corner
  • turn the other cheek
  • turn the scale
  • turn the tables
  • turn the tide
  • turn the trick
  • turn thumbs down
  • turn to
  • turn to good account
  • turn turtle
  • turn up
  • turn up like a bad penny
  • turn up one's nose
  • turn up one's toes
  • turn upside down
  • turn up the heat on
  • turn up trumps

also see:

  • at every turn
  • by turns
  • every time one turns around
  • good turn
  • in turn
  • not know where to turn
  • one good turn deserves another
  • out of turn
  • take a turn for the better
  • take turns
  • to a T (turn)
  • twist (turn) around one's finger
  • when someone's back is turned

Also see underunturned.

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