tur·​pi·​tude ˈtər-pə-ˌtüd How to pronounce turpitude (audio)
: inherent baseness : depravity
moral turpitude
also : a base act

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Turpitude comes from Latin turpis, meaning "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 Despite its frequent comic interludes and touches, and especially by means of its magnificent recurring irony, The Betrothed paints a terrible picture of human nature and turpitude. David Harsanyi, National Review, 25 Jan. 2024 Tucker’s alleged transgressions against Tracy could fall into the third category of moral turpitude if he is found in violation of Title IX statutes in the October hearing. Jared Ramsey, Detroit Free Press, 10 Sep. 2023 Stunningly, a third or so of Republican Party voters seem willing not only to countenance Trump’s criminality and moral turpitude, but actually celebrate it. Mark Z. Barabak, Los Angeles Times, 15 Aug. 2023 Greenberg said Majerus didn’t sign a contract for more than a year because Majerus did not want a moral turpitude clause in his contract, simply because it was not clearly defined. Brent Schrotenboer, USA TODAY, 16 Nov. 2022 Market observers warn, however, that these are not conventional distressed assets of the sort that customarily attract bargain hunters, as dabbling in Russian securities under current conditions can be taken by the public as a sign of moral turpitude. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 7 Mar. 2022 This means that the legal question of whether Deri’s fraud conviction counts as a crime of moral turpitude remains unresolved. Richard Allen Greene, CNN, 18 Jan. 2023 The district attorney’s report said the range of crimes include those of moral turpitude and a federal grand jury is currently considering charging officers. Sarah Ravani, San Francisco Chronicle, 14 Apr. 2023 Whether because of mental illness or moral turpitude, McCormick did bad things, it is explained. Dwight Garner, New York Times, 17 Apr. 2023

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

Word History


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

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined above

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


Dictionary Entries Near turpitude

Cite this Entry

“Turpitude.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/turpitude. Accessed 19 Apr. 2024.

Legal Definition


tur·​pi·​tude ˈtər-pə-ˌtüd, -ˌtyüd How to pronounce turpitude (audio)
: inherent baseness or depravity
also : a base act

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