box turtle


: any of several North American land turtles (genus Terrapene) capable of withdrawing into their shell and closing it by hinged joints in the lower half

called also box tortoise

: any of several chiefly semiaquatic, Asian turtles (genera Cuora and Pyxidea of the family Geoemydidae) that have a carapace with a median keel and are capable of withdrawing into their shell and closing it by hinged joints in the plastron

Note: The Asian box turtles are not closely related to the North American box turtles.

Illustration of box turtle

Illustration of box turtle

Examples of box turtle in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The eastern box turtles, kept inside socks to keep them from making noise, were found last year in four packages at a U.S. mail facility in Torrance, which were addressed to Tin’s home, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California said in a statement. Phil Helsel, NBC News, 11 Mar. 2024 Small mammals eat the fruit, as do box turtles, important in dispersing the seeds. Daryln Brewer Hoffstot Kristian Thacker, New York Times, 23 Mar. 2024 Kang, through a nationwide network, smuggled five species of turtles, including the eastern box turtle, the Justice Department said. Phil Helsel, NBC News, 11 Mar. 2024 The Sedgwick County Zoo – a wildlife park that is home to 3,000 individual animals of nearly 400 species — announced the birth of a McCord's box turtle on Friday. Ingrid Vasquez, Peoplemag, 11 Oct. 2023 Others included a Mojave desert tortoise collected within range of fallout from the former Nevada Test Site; a river cooter from the Savannah River Site, which manufactured fuel for nuclear weapons; and an eastern box turtle from Oak Ridge, which once produced parts for nuclear weapons. Celia Ford, WIRED, 30 Aug. 2023 But the researchers took things a step further with the Oak Ridge box turtle, looking at changes in uranium isotope concentrations across seven scute layers, marking the seven years of the turtle’s life between 1955 and 1962. Celia Ford, WIRED, 30 Aug. 2023 A number of other species are benefiting from the growth of lupine and other plants in the area, including rare moths, butterflies, native bees, and reptiles such as the Eastern hognose snake and Eastern box turtle, officials said. Travis Andersen,, 6 July 2023 The ornate box turtle is the subject of fieldwork this week in western Lee County, part of the 15th year of a box turtle health survey — the largest and longest in North America, researchers say. Morgan Greene,, 7 May 2021

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'box turtle.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1804, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of box turtle was in 1804

Dictionary Entries Near box turtle

Cite this Entry

“Box turtle.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 May. 2024.

Kids Definition

box turtle

: any of several North American land turtles able to withdraw completely into the shell and to close it by hinged joints in the lower shell

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