1. a spit that rotates or can be rotated.
  2. a mechanically or manually operated device for turning a spit on which meat is roasted.
  3. a person who turns a spit.
  4. a small dog having a long body and short legs, used formerly to work a treadmill that turned a spit.

Origin of turnspit

First recorded in 1570–80; turn + spit2
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for turnspit

Contemporary Examples of turnspit

  • With disparaging magnanimity in victory, Henry took Simnel into his kitchens as a turnspit.

    The Daily Beast logo
    The Best of Brit Lit

    Peter Stothard

    February 2, 2011

Historical Examples of turnspit

  • Turnspit: a kind of dog, formerly trained to turn a spit for roasting meat.

    Tom Brown at Rugby

    Thomas Hughes

  • So, when you addressed me, I was as foolish as an ass before a turnspit.

  • Bob wore the effigy, as his master called it, of a turnspit.

    The Monikins

    J. Fenimore Cooper

  • Here stood the greyhound, with his long legs, beside the turnspit.

    O. T.

    Hans Christian Andersen

  • In the first place, I ain't a turnspit; do you hear, you long flag-pole?

    Monsieur Cherami

    Charles Paul de Kock

British Dictionary definitions for turnspit


  1. (formerly) a servant or small dog whose job was to turn the spit on which meat, poultry, etc, was roasting
  2. a spit that can be so turned
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