tor·​toise | \ˈtȯr-təs \

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

More than 300 rare and endangered tortoises perished in a barn fire Tuesday, said the owner of Blake’s Exotic Animal Ranch in Southwest Ranches. Tonya Alanez,, "More than 300 rare and endangered tortoises die in barn fire, owner says," 3 July 2018 Brill blames the tortoise-like pace of government rule-writing on due process run amok. New York Times, "America Has Gone Off the Rails. Steven Brill Sees Ways to Get It Back on Track.," 2 July 2018 The tortoise was turned in by a person who found the animal on Cottonwood Avenue, according Mark Hess, HAWS field services manager. Jordyn Noennig, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Tortoise found in downtown Hartland was adopted in less than 24 hours," 28 June 2018 Many biologists believe tortoises and turtles could disappear from the wild altogether in the next 50 years, according to the American Tortoise Rescue. Madeline Farber, Fox News, "World Turtle Day 2018: 3 things to know about the shelled species," 23 May 2018 Overade’s Plixi model, for instance, folds into a tortoise-like shape that reduces its volume by two-thirds. Leigh Kamping-carder, WSJ, "The Next Generation of Bike Helmets," 27 Apr. 2018 Mule deer — including the rare burro deer — and tortoises come to the area, about an hour east of Indio, for life-giving shade and occasional pools of rainwater. Louis Sahagun,, "By ordering new land-use plan, Trump could spark a fight in California deserts," 16 Mar. 2018 Is there a difference between a tortoise and a turtle? Madeline Farber, Fox News, "World Turtle Day 2018: 3 things to know about the shelled species," 23 May 2018 The police captain said that tortoises are not allowed to be kept as pets in the city. Anthony Clark Carpio,, "Household pet limits increased in Burbank," 16 Mar. 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

10 Nov 2018

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 \

Kids Definition of tortoise

1 : a usually large turtle that lives on land

2 : turtle

Keep scrolling for more

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).


obstinately defiant of authority

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Autumn Words of the Day 2018

  • a-top-down-image-of-road-through-an-autumn-forest
  • Which is a synonym of fugacious?
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!