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turn (tûrn)
v. turned, turn·ing, turns
a. To cause to move around an axis or center; cause to rotate or revolve: A motor turns the wheels.
b. To cause to move around in order to achieve a result, such as opening, closing, tightening, or loosening: turn the key; turn a screw.
2. To alter or control the functioning of (a mechanical device, for example) by the use of a rotating or similar movement: turned the iron to a hotter setting.
3. To perform or accomplish by rotating or revolving: turn a somersault.
a. To change the position of so that the underside becomes the upper side: turn the steak; turn a page.
b. To spade or plow (soil) to bring the undersoil to the surface.
c. To reverse and resew the material of (a collar, for example).
5. To revolve in the mind; meditate on; ponder: turned the question in her mind.
a. To give a rounded form to (wood, for example) by rotating against a cutting tool.
b. To give a rounded shape to (clay, for example) by rotating and shaping with the hands or tools.
c. To give a rounded form to: turn a heel in knitting a sock.
d. To give distinctive, artistic, or graceful form to: "They know precisely how to turn a dramatic line or phrase that is guaranteed to make the evening news" (William Safire).
a. To change the position of by traversing an arc of a circle; pivot: turned his chair toward the speaker.
b. To present in a specified direction by rotating or pivoting: turn one's face to the wall.
c. To cause (a scale) to move up or down so as to register weight: Even a feather will turn a delicate scale.
a. To fold, bend, or twist (something).
b. To change the position or disposition of by folding, bending, or twisting: Turn the design right side up on your jacket buttons. Turn the hat inside out.
c. To make a bend or curve in: strong enough to turn a bar of steel.
d. To blunt or dull (the edge of a cutting instrument).
e. To injure by twisting: turn an ankle.
f. To upset or make nauseated: That story turns my stomach.
9. To change the direction or course of: turn the car to the left.
a. To divert or deflect: turn a stampede.
b. To reverse the course of; cause to retreat: "Then turn your forces from this paltry siege / And stir them up against a mightier task" (Shakespeare).
11. To make a course around or about: turn a corner.
12. To reach and pass (a specified age): My niece has turned two.
13. To change the purpose, intention, or content of by persuasion or influence: Her speech turned my thinking.
14. To change the order or disposition of; unsettle: "Sudden prosperity had turned [his] head" (Thomas Macaulay).
a. To aim or focus: turn one's gaze to the sky; turned the camera on the speaker.
b. To devote or apply (oneself, for example) to something: She turned herself to law.
16. To cause to act or go against; make antagonistic: The scandal turned public opinion against the candidate.
17. To cause to go in a specific direction; direct: They turned their steps toward home.
18. To send, drive, or let go: turn the bully out of the bar; turned the dog loose.
19. To pour, let fall, or otherwise release (contents) from or into a receptacle: Turn the dough onto a floured board.
a. To cause to take on a specified character, nature, identity, or appearance; change or transform. Used with to or into: water that had been turned to ice; turn a rundown house into a show place.
b. To affect or change the color of: Autumn turns the green leaves golden.
c. To make sour; ferment: Lack of refrigeration turned the milk.
21. To exchange; convert. Used with to or into: turns her singing talent into extra money.
22. To keep in circulation; sell and restock: We turned a great deal of merchandise during the holidays.
a. To make use of: turned the situation to our advantage.
b. To get by buying and selling: turn a fair profit.
24. To perform successfully; complete: turn a double play.
25. Slang To perform (an act of prostitution): turning tricks.
1. To move around an axis or center; rotate or revolve.
2. To have a sensation of revolving or whirling, especially as a result of dizziness or giddiness: My head is turning.
3. To change position from side to side or back and forth: I tossed and turned all night.
4. To progress through pages so as to arrive at a given place: Please turn to page 31.
a. To operate a lathe.
b. To be formed on a lathe: a softwood that turns easily.
6. To direct one's way or course: The truck turned into the gas station. Turn off the highway at the next exit.
7. To change or reverse one's way, course, or direction: Too tired to go farther, we turned toward home.
8. To change one's actions or attitudes adversely; become hostile or antagonistic: The peasants turned against the cruel king.
9. To attack suddenly and violently with no apparent motive: The lion turned on the animal trainer.
10. To channel one's attention, interest, or thought toward or away from something: "In the spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love" (Tennyson).
11. To devote or apply oneself to something, as to a field of study: Unsuccessful in math, the student turned to biology.
12. To convert to a religion.
13. To switch one's loyalty from one side or party to another.
a. To have recourse to a person or thing for help, support, or information: You can always turn to me for advice.
b. To start to use (something) as a solution to a problem or relief of distress: When things got really bad, he turned to drugs.
15. To depend on something for success or failure; hinge: "The election would turn not on ideology but on competence" (George F. Will).
a. To change so as to be; become: His hair turned gray. I am a lawyer turned novelist.
b. To change; become transformed. Used with to or into: The sky turned to pink at dawn. The night turned into day.
c. To change color: The leaves have turned.
d. To become sour: The milk will turn if you don't refrigerate it.
17. To be stocked and sold: This merchandise will turn easily.
18. To become dull or blunt by bending back. Used of the edge of a cutting instrument.
1. The act of turning or the condition of being turned; rotation or revolution.
2. A change of direction, motion, or position: Make a left turn at the corner.
3. A place, as in a road or path, where a change in direction occurs; a curve: a sharp turn in the road.
a. A change or deviation, as in a trend: a strange turn of events.
b. A change or development in a particular way: The patient took a turn for the worse.
c. A variation of a given kind or type: "His muse occasionally takes a humorous and satirical turn" (Albert C. Baugh).
5. A point marking the end of one period of time and the beginning of the next: the turn of the century.
6. The midway point in a round of 18 holes of golf, at which the first set of nine holes has been completed.
a. A period of participation: had a turn at wrestling in college.
b. A chance or opportunity: took advantage at every turn.
c. One of a series of such opportunities accorded people in succession or in scheduled order: waiting for her next turn at bat.
a. An attack of illness or severe nervousness.
b. A momentary shock or scare: I had quite a turn when I heard the crash.
9. A characteristic mood, style, or habit; a natural inclination: an inquisitive turn of mind.
10. A distinctive, graceful, or artistic expression or arrangement of words: the poetic turn of a phrase.
11. A deed or action having a good or bad effect on another: "He thought some friend had done him an ill turn" (Stephen Crane).
12. A short walk or excursion out and back: took a turn in the park.
13. A single wind or convolution, as of wire on a spool.
14. Music A figure or ornament, usually consisting of four or more notes in rapid succession and including the principal note, the one a degree above it, and the one a degree below it.
15. A brief theatrical act or stage appearance.
16. A transaction on the stock market involving both a sale and a purchase.
17. The fourth community card in Texas hold'em.
18. Upper Southern & South Atlantic US An amount that can be carried or transported in one load: a turn of firewood; a turn of corn.
Phrasal Verbs:
turn away
1. To send away; dismiss: turned away the clerk.
2. To repel: The poor location of the house turned away prospective buyers.
3. To avert; deflect: turned away all criticism.
turn back
1. To reverse one's direction of motion: stopped on the road and had to turn back.
2. To drive back and away: turned back the uninvited comers.
3. To halt the advance of: turned back the advancing army.
4. To fold down: Turn back the page's corner to save your place in the book.
turn down
1. To diminish the speed, volume, intensity, or flow of: Turn down the radio, please.
2. To reject or refuse, as a person, advice, or a suggestion: turned down the invitation.
3. To fold or be capable of folding down: turn a collar down; a collar that turns down.
turn in
1. To hand in; give over: turned in the final exam.
2. To inform on or deliver: The criminal turned herself in.
3. To produce: turns in a consistent performance every day.
4. Informal To go to bed: I turned in early last night.
turn off
1. To stop the operation, activity, or flow of; shut off: turned off the television.
2. Slang
a. To affect with dislike, displeasure, or revulsion: That song really turns me off.
b. To affect with boredom: The play turned the audience off.
c. To lose or cause to lose interest; withdraw: turning off to materialism.
d. To cease paying attention to: The student turned off the boring lecture and daydreamed.
3. To divert; deflect.
4. Chiefly British To dismiss (an employee).
turn on
1. To cause to begin the operation, activity, or flow of: Turn on the light bulb.
2. To begin to display, employ, or exude: turn on the charm.
3. Slang
a. To take or cause to take a mind-altering drug, especially for the first time.
b. To be or cause to become interested, pleasurably excited, or stimulated. Often used with to: My aunt turned me on to jazz. She turned on to surfing this summer.
c. To excite or become excited sexually.
turn out
1. To shut off: turned out the lights.
2. To arrive or assemble, as for a public event or entertainment: Many protesters have turned out.
3. To produce, as by a manufacturing process; make: an assembly line turning out cars.
4. To be found to be, as after experience or trial: The rookie turned out to be the team's best hitter.
5. To end up; result: The cake turned out beautifully.
6. To equip; outfit: troops that were turned out lavishly
7. Informal To get out of bed.
8. To evict; expel: The tenants were turned out.
turn over
1. To bring the bottom to the top or vice versa; invert.
a. To shift the position of, as by rolling from one side to the other.
b. To shift one's position by rolling from one side to the other.
3. To start operating or cause to start operating: The car's engine turned over. The starter couldn't turn the engine over.
4. To think about; consider: turned over the problem in her mind.
5. To be replaced by something else of the same kind: the rate at which the workforce turns over.
6. To transfer to another; deliver: turned over the suspect to federal agents.
7. To relinquish or surrender: turned over the management of the business to new owners.
8. Sports To lose possession of (the ball or puck).
9. To do business to the extent or amount of: turn over a million dollars a year.
10. To seem to lurch or heave convulsively: My stomach turned over.
turn to
To begin work: If you quit dawdling and just turn to, your chores will be done soon.
turn up
1. To increase the speed, volume, intensity, or flow of: Turn up the radio.
a. To find: She turned up the missing keys under her briefcase.
b. To be found: The papers will turn up sooner or later.
3. To make an appearance; arrive: Many old friends turned up at the reunion.
4. To fold or be capable of folding up: turning up his cuffs; cuffs that will turn up.
5. To happen unexpectedly: Something turned up, so I couldn't go.
6. To be evident: a sculptor whose name turns up in the art circles.
at every turn
In every place; at every moment.
by turns
One after another; alternately: "From the ... testimony emerges a man by turns devious and honest, vulgar and gallant, scatterbrained and shrewd" (Life).
in turn
In the proper order or sequence.
out of turn
1. Not in the proper order or sequence.
2. At an inappropriate time or in an inappropriate manner: The student was reprimanded for speaking out of turn.
to a turn
To a precise degree; perfectly: The roast was done to a turn.
turn a blind eye
To refuse to see or recognize something: turned a blind eye to tax fraud.
turn a deaf ear
To refuse to listen to or hear something: turned a deaf ear to the protests.
turn a hair
To become afraid or upset: didn't turn a hair during the crisis.
turn (one's) back on
1. To deny; reject.
2. To abandon; forsake.
turn (one's) hand
To apply oneself, as to a task: turned her hand to writing the report.
turn (one's) head
1. To cause to become infatuated.
2. To cause to become egotistical and conceited: Success has turned his head.
turn over a new leaf
To start acting or thinking in a more positive or responsible way.
turn tail
To run away.
turn the/a corner
To reach and surpass a midpoint or milestone.
turn the other cheek
To respond to insult or injury by patiently eschewing retaliation.
turn the scales
To offset the balance of a situation.
turn the tables
To reverse a situation and gain the upper hand.
turn turtle
To capsize or turn upside-down: Our sailboat turned turtle during the squall.
turn up (one's) nose
To regard something with disdain or scorn: turned up her nose at the food.

[Middle English turnen, from Old English turnian, tyrnan and Old French torner, both from Latin tornāre, to turn in a lathe, from tornus, lathe, from Greek tornos; see terə-1 in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]

Synonyms: turn, circle, rotate, revolve, gyrate, spin, whirl, eddy, swirl
These verbs mean to move a in circle. Turn and circle are the most general: The mechanic made sure the wheels turned properly. Seagulls circled above the ocean. Rotate refers to movement around an object's own axis or center: Earth rotates on its axis once each day. Revolve involves orbital movement: Earth revolves around the sun. Gyrate suggests revolving in or as if in a spiral course: The top gyrated on the counter and slowly came to a stop. To spin is to rotate rapidly, often within a narrow compass: "He ... spun round, flung up his arms, and fell on his back, shot through" (John Galsworthy).
Whirl applies to rapid or forceful revolution or rotation: During the blizzard, snowflakes whirled down from the sky. Eddy denotes rapid circular movement like that of a whirlpool: Storm clouds eddied overhead. Swirl can connote a graceful undulation, spiral, or whorl: The leaves swirled in the wind.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.

Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices

    Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:

    Indo-European Roots

    Semitic Roots

    The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.