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

Definition of turpitude

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

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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 The State Bar of California filed discipline charges Tuesday against legendary attorney Tom Girardi, formally accusing him of misappropriating millions in client funds, dishonesty and other acts of moral turpitude in his law practice. Harriet Ryan, Los Angeles Times, "State bar charges famed attorney Tom Girardi with misappropriating millions from clients," 30 Mar. 2021 One could be dismissed from Cornell for moral turpitude. Stacy Schiff, The New Yorker, "Véra Nabokov Was the First and Greatest Champion of “Lolita”," 5 Mar. 2021 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

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.

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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

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

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Last Updated

12 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Turpitude.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/turpitude. Accessed 12 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for turpitude



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

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