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[turn-kee] /ˈtɜrnˌki/
noun, plural turnkeys.
a person who has charge of the keys of a prison; jailer.
Also, turn-key. of, relating to, or resulting from an arrangement under which a private contractor designs and constructs a project, building, etc., for sale when completely ready for occupancy or operation:
turn-key housing, turnkey contract.
fully equipped; ready to go into operation:
a turnkey business.
Origin of turnkey
1645-55; turn + key1 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for turnkey
Historical Examples
  • At length the turnkey said that the time allowed for the interview was ended.

    A Dark Night's Work Elizabeth Gaskell
  • Upon which door the turnkey knocked with the handle of his key.

    Little Dorrit Charles Dickens
  • The grim iron doors of the prison clanged shut and the turnkey fastened them.

    Boys and Girls of Colonial Days Carolyn Sherwin Bailey
  • So, the turnkey thought about it all his life, and died intestate after all.

    Little Dorrit Charles Dickens
  • But vigilance had been suspended, and every turnkey had deemed it his duty to become drunk in the king's honour.

    The Coming of the King James Hocking
  • As it approached, there was not a Collegian within doors, nor a turnkey absent.

    Little Dorrit Charles Dickens
  • He had scarce taken ten steps when a turnkey popped out from a corner and stood sentinel over his room-door, barring all return.

  • Above the general din he heard the detestable voice of the turnkey.

  • In case of any violence or resistance, the turnkey called in the assistance of the sentries or a squad from the barracks.

  • The turnkey caught the end of my sleeve, and hurried me out of the door.

    Romance Joseph Conrad and F.M. Hueffer
British Dictionary definitions for turnkey


(archaic) a keeper of the keys, esp in a prison; warder or jailer
denoting a project, as in civil engineering, in which a single contractor has responsibility for the complete job from the start to the time of installation or occupancy
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 turnkey

1650s, "jailer," from turn (v.) + key (n.). In reference to a job that only has to be done once, it is recorded from 1934. The notion is of locking up afterward.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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