Turtle Idioms


Turtles are the reptiles that we all know and love, possessing a characteristic shell that protects them from external harm. Merriam-webster defines a turtle as a freshwater marine reptile with a toothless horny beak and a shell.

Curiosity: the turtle shell is an extremely complex shield, with skeletal components, keratinous scutes and even neural bones. To me it seems like a miracle of nature; how did the turtle’s shell evolve? Why did this animal in particular form such a unique carapace?

Because turtle shells are living things and much like the organs in your body, they are prone to deformities. A particularly curious one is pyramiding, which gives a pyramid shape to the shell’s scutes. It is believed that pyramiding occurs when there’s insufficient protein, sunlight or vitamin D3. Some turtles are able to live on despite pyramiding though.

Behold the Turtle

Words that start with Turtle

A few words contain the words turtle, such as:


Turtleback: This word can have many meanings and different books will give different answers but it is, in general, a tool.

The turtleback can either be a tortoise-core (a Paleolithic stone core made in the Levalloisian fashion) or simply a raised convex surface.

Turtle back is also a sexual position, and can also be a structure placed on a ship as a defense against stormy seas. It can also be a stone axe (this is, however, a mostly obsolete usage of the word).

Turtledove: A bird, usually the European Turtle Bird but this word can also be used to refer to the famous author, Harry Turtledove.

Turtlehead: This… er… refers to when you need to go the bathroom so badly that your feces are already popping out of your anus.

The phrase “turtlehead poking out” is usually used.

Turtlehead also refers to a North American herb.

Turtleneck: A North American word that refers to a kind of sweater or shirt with a close-fitting collar that covers your entire neck.

Howard Wolowitz from the Big Bang Theory wears turtleneck sweaters all the time.

Turtler: Someone who deals with turtles or hunts the eggs of turtles (or the turtles themselves).

In real-time strategy games (such as Starcraft or Age of Empires), a turtler is someone who constructs a large amount of defensive structures and avoids engaging the opponent in open conflict.

Take a walk with a Turtle

Idioms with the word Turtle

There are some obscure idioms that use the word turtle, but I’m going to focus on the two that actually see use in day-to-day life: turning turtle and turtle heading.

To turn turtle means to turn upside down. Example: “The tank turned turtle as a result of a collision with another tank.”

Turtle heading is an idiom used in the office when someone keeps snooping about and checking out what his or her colleagues are doing. “Maybe I’m turtle heading; maybe I’m not.”

Try to be like the turtle: At ease in your own shell

Perhaps what we can learn from the beautiful turtle is that it’s fine to be at ease in your own shell no matter how weird you are or how different you may be. Each one of us is a unique human being and it’s fine to be who you are. Better to be a turtle than pretend to be a whale, aye?