Definition of terrapin in US English:



  • 1US A small edible turtle with lozenge-shaped markings on its shell, found in coastal marshes of the eastern US.

    Malaclemys terrapin, family Emydidae

    • ‘In 1903, at the time of Le Guide's publication, you could walk into Delmonico's Restaurant, in New York City, and order such favorites as diamondback terrapin (a small eastern turtle), whitetail deer, and canvasback duck.’
    • ‘Of the five creeks, we know for sure that two did not support terrapins via sampling done by Chambers, and no terrapins were ever observed in the two not directly sampled.’
    • ‘Easy paddling along 30 miles of marked water trails takes you through a 2,900-acre salt marsh that is abundant with wildlife - snowy egrets, diamondback terrapins and herons, along with bluefish, rockfish, sea trout and flounder.’
    • ‘Considered a delicacy and served in restaurants, diamondback terrapins were heavily harvested along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts through most of the past century.’
    • ‘We collected diamondback terrapin, Malaclemys terrapin, eggs from multiple sights within its range to quantify variation in egg size and the amount of stored energy reserves provided within the eggs.’
    • ‘Crabs or fish or even a diamondback terrapin enters a trap to feed on the bait, can't get out, dies and becomes the bait that attracts more victims.’
    • ‘The northern diamondback terrapin, red fox, snapping turtle, raccoon, rabbit, skunk, opossum and blue crab, all animals that do well living close to people, have adapted nicely to the rapid changes of the Meadowlands.’
    • ‘With increased demand for terrapins by epicures, prices soared and a market was born to supply the big eastern cities of Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York.’
    • ‘‘The diamondback terrapin became one of the most economically important reptiles in the world,’ said Lovich.’
    • ‘In population studies, most of the terrapins were consistently captured in large numbers only in Turtle Creek.’
    • ‘Wheeler Marsh in Milford, Connecticut provides habitat for diamondback terrapins, a unique estuarine turtle.’
    • ‘It would appear that the low plant density of Turtle Creek may assist the terrapins by making resources more accessible there than in other creeks.’
    • ‘Studies on the eggs of diamondback terrapins, Malaclemys terrapin, demonstrated that at least one dune grass, Ammophila breviligulata, has the ability to absorb nutrients from turtle eggs.’
  • 2A freshwater turtle, especially one of the smaller kinds of the Old World.

    Emydidae and other families, order Chelonia: several genera and species

    Also called turtle
    • ‘Now we find there are eight - at least - in a small fountain with a dozen or so nervous-looking fish, which keep themselves very much to themselves about as far away from the terrapins as they can get.’
    • ‘An old boating lake here is now a pond rumoured to be home to a couple of terrapins.’
    • ‘Following the success of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film in the late 1980s, thousands of children bought turtles and terrapins.’
    • ‘The river and its surrounding vegetation are home to monitor lizards, terrapins, monkeys, river otters and sea eagles.’
    • ‘We're forever called over to see little kids with terrapins in their pockets.’
    • ‘Hamsters would be added to the mailman's shoulder as would parrots, guinea pigs, terrapins and wombats.’
    • ‘However, instead, they found a fresh water terrapin, a turtle-like creature normally kept as a pet.’
    • ‘There are no official figures on the number of exotic pets in the UK but the type of animals on sale from pet shops include birds, snakes and other reptiles, terrapins and even small alligators.’
    • ‘In the early 1990s, during the Ninja Turtle craze, 250,000 baby terrapins the size of a 50p piece were imported into Britain as pets and most died due to lack of knowledge on their upkeep.’
    • ‘The terrapins were OK because they just sunned themselves in the aquarium, but then the cats and the three puppies arrived.’
    • ‘It would be in the upper Rio Branco, in Northern Brazil, though, where Nick, hiding in a pit filming giant expansa terrapins, would see his first jaguar in the wild.’
    • ‘‘There will be a demonstration on reptiles like snakes, terrapins, skinks and tortoises, that will look at how they adapt to the environment,’ says zoo educationist Imelda Matlala.’
    • ‘The British public's fascination with exotic animals is giving the RSPCA problems ranging from a tank full of terrapins dumped on a doorstep in Rotherham to a Burmese python abandoned in a back yard in Bradford.’
    • ‘My first meeting with a jaguar took place one misty morning on a sandbank in northern Brazil, where I was trying to film giant expansa terrapins.’
    • ‘The first stop allows youngsters to feed the deer and sheep, then the party moves onwards to stroke the ducks and, finally, to feed the rabbits, rats, mice, guinea pigs, chinchillas, hamsters and terrapins.’
    • ‘Since then, they have found homes for around 1,200 creatures ranging from dogs, cats, guinea pigs, chickens and geese to terrapins, snakes and iguanas.’
    • ‘In 1924 he published, to great acclaim, The Flaming Terrapin, an exuberant allegorical narrative of the Flood, in which the terrapin represents energy and rejuvenation.’
    • ‘They will be preparing 40 to 50 of the 250 tortoises and terrapins that share their home near Tewkesbury for hibernation.’
    • ‘It includes some natural history displays which are always there, including live terrapins, frogs and guinea pigs.’
    • ‘The gentle splashings of two huge terrapins punctuate the tides of sound coming out of the stereo's speakers.’


Early 17th century (denoting the diamondback terrapin): of Algonquian origin.