turn·​stone ˈtərn-ˌstōn How to pronounce turnstone (audio)
: either of two shorebirds (genus Arenaria) of the sandpiper family:
: a bird (A. interpres) of worldwide distribution that has black and chestnut upperparts and a black breast
: a North American bird (A. melanocephala) with black upperparts and breast

Illustration of turnstone

Illustration of turnstone

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web The ruddy turnstone and purple sandpiper seem to like each other's company. Paul A. Smith, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 6 Jan. 2022 One, with a distinct black bib and white belly and slightly upturned bill, was a ruddy turnstone. Paul A. Smith, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 6 Jan. 2022 In Hampshire County, notable sightings at the Oxbow Marina included a black-bellied plover, a ruddy turnstone, a whimbrel, and a laughing gull. BostonGlobe.com, 28 Aug. 2021 Allen’s Pond Sanctuary in Westport: There were three ruddy turnstones, a stilt sandpiper, three white-rumped sandpipers, two little blue herons, and 14 glossy ibises. BostonGlobe.com, 11 Aug. 2019 At Gooseberry Neck, there were 84 black scoters, three ruddy turnstones, three roseate terns, a great shearwater, a Northern gannet, two cliff swallows, and two orchard orioles. BostonGlobe.com, 30 June 2019 In this May 22, 2018 photo, ruddy turnstones, larger birds, and semipalmated sandpipers walk near the shoreline at Kimbles Beach, Middle Township NJ. Washington Post, 28 June 2018 That day, six species of shorebird were present; ruddy turnstone, semipalmated plover, buff-breasted sandpiper, sanderling and white-rumped sandpiper were all tallied. Taylor Piephoff, charlotteobserver, 22 Sep. 2017 See More

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

Word History


from a habit of turning over stones to find food

First Known Use

circa 1674, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of turnstone was circa 1674

Dictionary Entries Near turnstone

Cite this Entry

“Turnstone.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/turnstone. Accessed 6 Jun. 2023.

More from Merriam-Webster on turnstone

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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