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

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web Why Trust Us? Frank, an Eastern box turtle, lives in my family’s backyard. Mary Laura Philpott, Country Living, 8 Mar. 2023 Nothing quite says summer like a stroll along the water’s edge and finding a turn of turtles basking on a log or witnessing the slow and deliberate pace of an eastern box turtle. Guest, Discover Magazine, 4 Aug. 2015 Think of a drab box turtle basking on a rock at high noon. Brad Balukjian, Discover Magazine, 8 Jan. 2014 An injured eastern box turtle was struggling across the street outside her house in Alexandria, Virginia. Vincent T. Davis, San Antonio Express-News, 8 Aug. 2022 The three-toed box turtle is one of the most common turtles motorists will encounter in The Natural State. Arkansas Online, 20 June 2022 Although most small mammals cannot get into a box turtle's shell a persistent coyote can eventually work its way through to the turtle underneath. Arkansas Online, 20 June 2022 Julie Lisk, senior field biologist with the conservation department at Zoo New England, said the box turtle project started about six years ago. Don Lyman,, 25 May 2022 Along with this successful operation, the upcoming episode of Critter Fixers: Country Vets will include a boxer dog dealing with an allergic reaction and a box turtle in need of little help. People Staff,, 11 Apr. 2022 See More

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 30 Mar. 2023.

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

More from Merriam-Webster on box turtle

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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