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1. Any of various aquatic or terrestrial egg-laying reptiles of the order Testudines (or Chelonia), having horny toothless jaws and a bony or leathery shell into which the head, limbs, and tail can be withdrawn in most species.
2. Any of various members of this order that live in fresh or brackish water, in contrast to the terrestrial tortoises.
3. Chiefly British A sea turtle.
4. The flesh of certain turtles, used for food.
intr.v. tur·tled, tur·tling, tur·tles
1. To hunt for turtles, especially as an occupation.
2. Nautical To capsize.
[Alteration (influenced by turtle) of Middle English tortu, from Old French tortue, ultimately (probably with influence from Old French tortu, crooked, and tordu, twisted, from the shape of its legs) from Vulgar Latin *tartarūca, feminine of *tartarūcus, of Tartarus (the turtle being a symbol of the forces of darkness in early Christian iconography), from Late Latin tartarūchus, from Late Greek tartaroukhos, occupying Tartarus : Tartaros, Tartarus + ekhein, to hold; see eunuch.]
[Middle English, from Old English, from Latin turtur, probably of imitative origin.]
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.