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Tortoise definitions

Webster's 1828 Dictionary

TORTOISE, n. tor'tis.] from L. tortus, twisted.]
1. An animal of the genus Testudo, covered with a shell or crust.
2. In the military art, a defense used by the ancients, formed by the troops arranging themselves in close order and placing their bucklers over their heads, making a cover resembling a tortoise-shell.

WordNet (r) 3.0 (2005)

1: usually herbivorous land turtles having clawed elephant- like limbs; worldwide in arid area except Australia and Antarctica

Merriam Webster's

noun Etymology: Middle English tortu, tortuse, from Anglo-French tortue more at turtle Date: 14th century 1. any of a family (Testudinidae) of terrestrial turtles; broadly turtle 2. someone or something regarded as slow or laggard

Oxford Reference Dictionary

n. 1 any slow-moving land or freshwater reptile of the family Testudinidae, encased in a scaly or leathery domed shell, and having a retractile head and elephantine legs. 2 Rom. Antiq. = TESTUDO. Derivatives: tortoise-like adj. & adv. Etymology: ME tortuce, OF tortue, f. med.L tortuca, of uncert. orig.

Webster's 1913 Dictionary

Tortoise Tor"toise, n. [OE. tortuce, fr. OF. tortis crooked, fr. L. tortus isted, crooked, contorted, p. p. of torquere, tortum, to wind; cf. F. tortue tortoise, LL. tortuca, tartuca, Pr. tortesa crookedness, tortis crooked. so called in allusion to its crooked feet. See Torture.] 1. (Zo["o]l.) Any one of numerous species of reptiles of the order Testudinata. Note: The term is applied especially to the land and fresh-water species, while the marine species are generally called turtles, but the terms tortoise and turtle are used synonymously by many writers. see Testudinata, Terrapin, and Turtle. 2. (Rom. Antiq.) Same as Testudo, 2. Box tortoise, Land tortoise, etc. See under Box, Land, etc. Painted tortoise. (Zo["o]l.) See Painted turtle, under Painted. Soft-shell tortoise. (Zo["o]l.) See Trionyx. Spotted tortoise. (Zo["o]l.) A small American fresh-water tortoise (Chelopus, or Nanemys, quttatus) having a blackish carapace on which are scattered round yellow spots. Tortoise beetle (Zo["o]l.), any one of numerous species of small tortoise-shaped beetles. Many of them have a brilliant metallic luster. the larv[ae] feed upon the leaves of various plants, and protect themselves beneath a mass of dried excrement held over the back by means of the caudal spines. The golden tortoise beetle (Cassida aurichalcea) is found on the morning-glory vine and allied plants. Tortoise plant. (Bot.) See Elephant's foot, under Elephant. Tortoise shell, the substance of the shell or horny plates of several species of sea turtles, especially of the hawkbill turtle. It is used in inlaying and in the manufacture of various ornamental articles. Tortoise-shell butterfly (Zo["o]l.), any one of several species of handsomely colored butterflies of the genus Aglais, as A. Milberti, and A. urtic[ae], both of which, in the larva state, feed upon nettles. Tortoise-shell turtle (Zo["o]l.), the hawkbill turtle. See Hawkbill.

Collin's Cobuild Dictionary

(tortoises) A tortoise is a slow-moving animal with a shell into which it can pull its head and legs for protection. N-COUNT

Easton's Bible Dictionary

(Heb. tsabh). Ranked among the unclean animals (Lev. 11:29). Land tortoises are common in Syria. The LXX. renders the word by "land crocodile." The word, however, more probably denotes a lizard, called by the modern Arabs _dhabb_.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

tor'-tus, tor'-tis, tor'-tois. (the King James Version) (tsabh, the Revised Version (British and American) "great lizard"; compare the Arabic word, dabb, the thorny-tailed lizard): The word tsabh occurs as the name of an animal only in Le 11:29, being the third in the list of unclean "creeping things."

The same word is found in Isa 66:20, translated "litters," and in Nu 7:3, where `eghloth tsabh is translated "covered wagons." Gesenius derives the word, in all senses, from the root cabhabh, "to move gently," "to flow"; compare Arabic dabba, "to flow." The Arabic noun dabb is Uromastix spinipes, the Arabian thorny-tailed lizard. This lizard is about 18 inches long, its relatively smooth body being terminated with a great tail armed with rings of spiny scales. The Arabs have a familiar proverb, 'a`kad min dhanab ud-dabb, "knottier than the tail of the dabb." The Septuagint has for tsabh in Le 11:29 ho krokodeilos ho chersaios, the English equivalent of which, "land-crocodile," is used by the Revised Version (British and American) for the fifth in the list of unclean "creeping things," koach, the King James Version "chameleon."

The writer does not know what can have led the translators of the King James Version to use here the word "tortoise." Assuming that the thorny-tailed lizard is meant, the "great lizard" of the Revised Version (British and American) may be considered to be a fair translation.


Alfred Ely Day

Moby Thesaurus

alligator, crocodile, crocodilian, dawdle, dawdler, dinosaur, drone, foot-dragger, gator, goldbrick, goof-off, laggard, lie-abed, lingerer, lizard, loiterer, plodder, procrastinator, reptile, reptilian, saurian, sleepyhead, slow goer, slow-foot, slowbelly, slowpoke, slug, sluggard, snail, stick-in-the-mud, terrapin, turtle

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