tor·​toise | \ ˈtȯr-təs How to pronounce tortoise (audio) \

Definition of tortoise

1 : any of a family (Testudinidae) of terrestrial turtles broadly : turtle
2 : someone or something regarded as slow or laggard

Examples of tortoise in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Santa Ynez Animal Rescue picked up the tortoise before CHP officers arrived. CBS News, "Wandering 250-pound tortoise found on side of California road, returned to owners," 17 July 2019 Male tortoises can survive up to a year without eating and often will go without food during mating season. Kathleen Christiansen,, "Gatorland guide shares facts during Trainer-for-a-Day tour," 25 June 2019 Gopher tortoises tend to prefer high and dry habitats, the same places typically used for residential land development. Leah Asmelash And Melissa Gray, CNN, "Florida police detained a tortoise for blocking the road. He got away with a warning and a selfie," 23 June 2019 Barton Perreira Two-tone classic tortoise shades; $395, Carol Mccolgin, The Hollywood Reporter, "Father's Day Gift Guide: Top Choices for Execs, Stars, Agents, Writers and Directors," 7 June 2019 Recall that in his paradox of Achilles and the tortoise, Zeno claimed that a faster runner could never overtake a slower runner, despite what Usain Bolt proved that night in Beijing. Quanta Magazine, "Usain Bolt’s Split Times and the Power of Calculus," 3 Apr. 2019 Measuring more than 3 feet long and 550 pounds on average, the Aldabra giant tortoise is behind only the Galapagos tortoise in size. Nicholas St. Fleur, New York Times, "Ancient Crocodiles Once Feasted on Giant Tortoises on This Island," 23 Jan. 2018 Learn the basics of wildlife photography, zooming in on giant Galápagos tortoises, sea lions, and other creatures unfazed by your presence. National Geographic, "," 12 June 2019 Altogether, about 84 snakes were recovered, as well as tortoises, birds and other animals, officials said at the time. Brittny Mejia,, "Thousand Oaks man charged in connection with keeping exotic reptiles," 14 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'tortoise.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of tortoise

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for tortoise

Middle English tortu, tortuse, from Anglo-French tortue — more at turtle

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about tortoise

Statistics for tortoise

Last Updated

21 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for tortoise

The first known use of tortoise was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for tortoise



English Language Learners Definition of tortoise

: a kind of turtle that lives on land


tor·​toise | \ ˈtȯr-təs How to pronounce tortoise (audio) \

Kids Definition of tortoise

1 : a usually large turtle that lives on land
2 : turtle

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on tortoise

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with tortoise

Spanish Central: Translation of tortoise

Nglish: Translation of tortoise for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of tortoise for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about tortoise

Comments on tortoise

What made you want to look up tortoise? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to complain fretfully

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

What's that Smell?! Quiz

  • wide eyed dog smelling rose
  • Someone who is hircine smells like a:
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!