Definition of turtle in English:



  • 1A large marine reptile with a bony or leathery shell and flippers, coming ashore annually on sandy beaches to lay eggs.

    Families Cheloniidae (seven species) and Dermochelyidae (the leatherback)

    1. 1.1mass noun The flesh of a sea turtle, especially the green turtle, used chiefly for soup.
      • ‘She told me about Escoffier's cookbook and its recipe for turtle soup.’
      • ‘Pork and turtle are feast foods, with chicken also being reserved for special occasions.’
      • ‘The ball came to an end at 3am, when the waitresses served turtle soup.’
      • ‘One of the main dishes was a soup - soft shelled turtle soup.’
      • ‘However, several species of sea turtles continue to be endangered by the Omani taste for turtle soup.’
      • ‘Sea cow, turtle, and fish remain ceremonial dishes, along with bougna, a dish of steamed yams and meat cooked under hot stones.’
      • ‘The traditional national dish is turtle; conch is also popular, either served raw with lime juice and onions, or cooked as a stew, chowder, or fritters.’
  • 2A freshwater reptile related to the sea turtles and tortoises.

    Order Chelonia: several families, in particular Emydidae and Kinosternidae

    Called terrapin in South Africa and India and tortoise in Australia
    1. 2.1North American Any reptile of the order Chelonia, including the terrapins and tortoises.
  • 3A directional cursor in a computer graphics system which can be instructed to move around a screen.


  • turn turtle

    • (chiefly of a boat) turn upside down.

      ‘the other boat nearly turned turtle several times’
      ‘his tractor turned turtle and killed him’
      • ‘She had turned turtle and capsized and those who were not able to get out in the first few hours were surely trapped for good.’
      • ‘The Hampshire has turned turtle with much of the bows broken up where she hit the mine on that fateful day back in 1916.’
      • ‘The Bismark's excellent fire control and high rate of fire finally shredded Prince of Wales, which slowly turned turtle and sank.’
      • ‘Top-heavy, like all battleships, the Nagato turned turtle before leaving daylight behind.’
      • ‘Four minutes later the ship turned turtle and sank.’
      • ‘The ship turned turtle and people went out on horses to save survivors.’
      • ‘But en route at Chavara the ambulance met with an accident and turned turtle.’
      • ‘Kevin bellows instructions, and in quick time we exit the boat, turn turtle and fin towards the edge of the drop-off.’
      • ‘The Kléber sank swiftly, turning turtle as she went.’
      • ‘Riddled with bullet holes, the flat-bottomed vessel sank, turning turtle as it did so and settling on the 7m bottom.’
      overturn, turn over, tip over, roll over, upturn, capsize, turn topsy-turvy
      View synonyms


Mid 16th century: apparently an alteration of French tortue (see tortoise).