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[tur-tl] /ˈtɜr tl/
noun, plural turtles (especially collectively) turtle.
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), turtled, turtling.
to catch turtles, especially as a business.
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.
1625-35; alteration (influenced by turtle2) of French tortue < Medieval Latin tortūca tortoise
Related forms
turtler, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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British Dictionary definitions for turn turtle


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 swimming related adjectives chelonian testudinal
(US & 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
(intransitive) to catch or hunt turtles
Derived Forms
turtler, noun
Word Origin
C17: from French tortuetortoise (influenced by turtle²)


an archaic name for turtledove
Word Origin
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
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Word Origin and History for turn turtle



reptile, c.1600, "marine tortoise," from French tortue "turtle, tortoise," of unknown origin. The English word is perhaps a sailors' mauling of the French one, influenced by the similar sounding turtle (n.2). Later extended to land tortoises; sea-turtle is attested from 1610s. Turtleneck "close-fitting collar" is recorded from 1895.

"turtledove," Old English turtle, dissimilation of Latin turtur "turtledove," a reduplicated form imitative of the bird's call. Graceful, harmonious and affectionate to its mate, hence a term of endearment in Middle English. Turtledove is attested from c.1300.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for turn turtle

turn over

verb phrase

To ransack or rifle, esp to steal: turned over the tavern after closing (1859+)

turn up one's nose

verb phrase

To regard or treat with contempt: turned up his nose at the new recipe (1818+)

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with turn turtle

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 ]


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