tur·​pi·​tude | \ ˈtər-pə-ˌtüd How to pronounce turpitude (audio) , -ˌtyüd \

Definition of turpitude

: inherent baseness : depravity moral turpitude also : a base act

Keep scrolling for more

Did You Know?

Turpitude came to English from Latin by way of Middle French. The Latin word turpitudo comes from "turpis," which means "vile" or "base." The word is often heard in the phrase "moral turpitude," an expression used in law to designate an act or behavior that gravely violates the sentiment or accepted standard of the community. A criminal offense that involves "moral turpitude" is considered wrong or evil by moral standards, in addition to being the violation of a statute.

Examples of turpitude in a Sentence

pictorial advertisements for chic clothing and fragrances in which drug addiction and other forms of moral turpitude are depicted as alternative fashion statements
Recent Examples on the Web This gets at a bifurcated and strange element of Democratic messaging around Republican turpitude. Alex Pareene, The New Republic, "Jen O’Malley Dillon Fell Into Joe Biden’s Unity Trap," 18 Dec. 2020 More than two dozen additional crimes are considered crimes of moral turpitude, but do not require a pardon to restore voting rights. Connor Sheets | Csheets@al.com, al, "In Alabama, some felons are wrongly being barred from voting," 30 Oct. 2020 Moral turpitude is a term applied generally to felonies like murder, child abuse, fraud and theft. Lorraine Longhi, The Arizona Republic, "Scottsdale Councilman Guy Phillips says he won't resign following backlash to 'I can't breathe' comments," 1 July 2020 City law requires that a person must first be convicted of a crime of moral turpitude before officials can take away a public employee’s pension, and Nuru’s court case has only barely begun. Dominic Fracassa, SFChronicle.com, "SF corruption case: Nuru resigns in wake of fraud charges," 10 Feb. 2020 The issue concerns a provision in the Alabama Constitution that says felons who commit crimes of moral turpitude lose their right to vote. Mike Cason | Mcason@al.com, al, "Merrill corrects press release on felons’ voting rights," 6 Nov. 2019 Even today, nearly all states have laws that permit the dismissal of a teacher for immorality, immoral character or moral turpitude. Kyle Greenwalt, The Conversation, "Even when they aren’t fired for being pregnant or gay, teachers face strict moral demands," 22 Oct. 2019 That’s the outgrowth of a mind-set that views our most vulnerable populations as malingerers, rip-off artists or guilty of moral turpitude. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, "Column: Trump proposes denying free school meals to a half-million children," 21 Oct. 2019 Some states, such as New Mexico and Kansas, limit the reasons for a recall to things such as malfeasance, neglect of duty, incompetence, permanent inability to perform official duties and conviction of a felony involving moral turpitude. Anna Staver, The Denver Post, "After failed recall attempts, Colorado’s GOP is searching for its next move," 14 Sep. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'turpitude.' 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 turpitude

15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for turpitude

Middle French, from Latin turpitudo, from turpis vile, base

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about turpitude

Time Traveler for turpitude

Time Traveler

The first known use of turpitude was in the 15th century

See more words from the same century

Listen to Our Podcast about turpitude

Statistics for turpitude

Last Updated

31 Dec 2020

Cite this Entry

“Turpitude.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/turpitude. Accessed 23 Jan. 2021.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for turpitude


How to pronounce turpitude (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of turpitude

formal : a very evil quality or way of behaving


tur·​pi·​tude | \ ˈtər-pə-ˌtüd, -ˌtyüd How to pronounce turpitude (audio) \

Legal Definition of turpitude

: inherent baseness or depravity also : a base act

More from Merriam-Webster on turpitude

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for turpitude

Nglish: Translation of turpitude for Spanish Speakers

Comments on turpitude

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


Test Your Vocabulary

Slippery Words Quiz—Changing with the Times

  • ducreux self portrait yawning
  • What is an earlier meaning of nice?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

 AlphaBear 2

Spell words. Make bears.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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