1 [tur-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,
Nautical. to capsize or turn over completely in foundering.
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

turtler, noun
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2 [tur-tl]
noun Archaic.
a turtledove.

before 1000; Middle English, Old English < Latin turtur (imitative)

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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
turtle1 (ˈtɜːtəl)
1.  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: chelonian, testudinal
2.  (US), (Canadian) any of the chelonian reptiles, including the tortoises and terrapins
3.  nautical a zip bag made as part of a spinnaker for holding the sail so that it can be set rapidly
4.  turn turtle to capsize
5.  (intr) to catch or hunt turtles
Related: chelonian, testudinal
[C17: from French tortuetortoise (influenced by turtle²)]

turtle2 (ˈtɜːtəl)
an archaic name for turtledove
[Old English turtla, from Latin turtur, of imitative origin; related to German Turteltaube]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

reptile, 1609, "marine tortoise," from Fr. tortue "turtle, tortoise," of unknown origin. The Eng. word is perhaps a sailors' mauling of the French one, infl. by the similar sounding turtle (2). Later extended to land tortoises. Turtleneck "close-fitting collar" is recorded from 1895.

"turtledove," O.E. turtle, dissimilation of L. turtur "turtledove," a reduplicated form imitative of the bird's call. Graceful, harmonious and affectionate to its mate, hence a term of endearment in M.E. Turtledove is attested from c.1300.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases


see turn turtle.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Example sentences
Sea turtle hatchlings become disoriented by lights on the beach from businesses
  and homes.
My red interview turtle neck with the little white stars worked out pretty well.
Their engineering division spends its time building football pitches, mending
  roads and righting cars that have turned turtle.
The findings shed light on turtle evolution, the researchers add.
Idioms & Phrases
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