Definition of turbulent in US English:



  • 1Characterized by conflict, disorder, or confusion; not controlled or calm.

    ‘the country's turbulent 20-year history’
    ‘her turbulent emotions’
    • ‘The paper has had a somewhat turbulent history.’
    • ‘Don't miss a tour of the Berlin Experience, which traces its turbulent history.’
    • ‘It's intense and turbulent and chaotic and calming and rhythmic all at the same time.’
    • ‘Evidence of the region's turbulent history is everywhere.’
    • ‘The July Monarchy was a turbulent time in French history.’
    • ‘Built by Edward Longshanks and destroyed by the Duke of Cumberland's army as it advanced towards Culloden, Linlithgow Palace stands at the heart of Scotland's turbulent history.’
    • ‘The town had remained calm since the turbulent times seven months ago.’
    • ‘The history of Romany gipsies and Irish travellers in Yorkshire is a long and turbulent one - and conflict with locals and the authorities is nothing new.’
    • ‘He's observed the turbulent history of the humble stage direction and has decided to take action.’
    • ‘During its turbulent history it had known dozens of presidents, but their efforts to rule had been fruitless, invariably with blood flowing.’
    • ‘On no occasion throughout that turbulent history was an eventual withdrawal from the convertibility regime put under serious public discussion.’
    • ‘I think that most other nationalities have had a turbulent enough history to know that one can never relax, that nothing is forever, that society is constantly making and re-making itself.’
    • ‘Its structures, planes and buildings emit an emotional charge, rooted in the city's turbulent history.’
    • ‘The book is a well-balanced account of both the baseball of the '30s and the larger social history of that turbulent era.’
    • ‘Since its introduction by the Further and Higher Education Act 1992, quality assurance of teaching has had a relatively brief but turbulent history.’
    • ‘Just after he returned to Spain, the country entered a new and turbulent phase in its history.’
    • ‘Wallace began his career in the 1830s as a land surveyor in Wales, during one of the most turbulent eras of British history.’
    • ‘The break-in is the latest event in a turbulent recent history for the family who were thrust back into the media spotlight following the success of their eponymous reality TV show.’
    • ‘Despite its turbulent history, the Borders has managed to retain a number of fine period homes.’
    • ‘After the most turbulent year in the history of the Olympic Games, Kevan Gosper has written an account of his life in sport, from being an athlete, through his years as a sports administrator.’
    tempestuous, stormy, unstable, unsettled, tumultuous, explosive, in turmoil, full of upheavals, full of conflict, full of ups and downs, roller-coaster, chaotic, full of confusion
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    1. 1.1 (of air or water) moving unsteadily or violently.
      ‘the turbulent sea’
      • ‘Needless to say he's in the turbulent water for an awfully long time.’
      • ‘Sorting is one result of the movement of sediment transported by turbulent air or water.’
      • ‘Ironically, wave power is produced not by water but by the air currents that are trapped and then pushed around by the turbulent waters.’
      • ‘He dropped down below the boat and the turbulent water.’
      • ‘Jimmy took off and flew all the way through turbulent air to land at Newark at 3: 51 pm.’
      • ‘The turbulent air is cooled, and this causes condensation and consequently an extensive stratus cloud is often formed.’
      • ‘Charlie could see turbulent waters ahead, and prayed for wisdom.’
      • ‘Looking down at the turbulent waters below, she took a deep breath and prayed.’
      • ‘The turbulent water produces millions of air bubbles that circle about your mask and add to the thrill of the current.’
      • ‘It was as if the turbulent water of new relationship really had passed beneath the bridge, and now we were free to relax.’
      • ‘The North Sea is an enchanting voyage across alternately silky and turbulent waters.’
      • ‘If the air was turbulent, maintaining a tight formation was a real chore.’
      • ‘Only when they were finished did I discover that the wooden boats were barely buoyant enough to survive the turbulent water.’
      • ‘They made their way through the turbulent waters, and Elijah breathed a sigh of relief.’
      • ‘There is another very large grassy area across the other side of the lake which offers a more forgiving landing and less chance of turbulent air.’
      • ‘A mass of waves were sweeping the shoreline, and the turbulent water toppled trees and swept them towards both ends of the lake, now spread twice as wide as it had once been.’
      • ‘In these turbulent waters, the American Navy navigates the political shoals and does what it does best.’
      • ‘In rougher, more turbulent water, trout are much harder to see.’
      • ‘Suddenly, with a splash to wake the dead, it flipped over and he was tossed into the turbulent waters near mid-stream.’
      • ‘He kicked and slapped the his way through the turbulent water in a desperate attempt to break through to the surface and breathe.’
      rough, stormy, tempestuous, storm-tossed, heavy, violent, wild, angry, raging, boiling, seething, foaming, choppy, bumpy, agitated
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    2. 1.2technical Relating to or denoting flow of a fluid in which the velocity at any point fluctuates irregularly and there is continual mixing rather than a steady or laminar flow pattern.
      • ‘He studied the change in a flow along a pipe when it goes from laminar flow to turbulent flow.’
      • ‘Instabilities appear in the flow as Re increases, and all flows become turbulent at sufficiently large Reynolds numbers.’
      • ‘Boundary layers have to be modelled with particular attention to the possible change from turbulent to laminar flow.’
      • ‘The flows can also be turbulent, which means there is little hope of solving the necessary equations.’
      • ‘They can be viewed as a turbulent flow of liquid in which the chaotic fluctuations get larger as one examines the fluid with a magnifying glass on a finer and finer scale.’


Late Middle English: from Latin turbulentus ‘full of commotion’, from turba ‘crowd’.