Definition of topsy-turvy in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˌtäpsēˈtərvē/


1Upside down: the fairground ride turned riders topsy-turvy
More example sentences
  • In her topsy-turvy upside down world she could clearly make out exactly where her body was supposed to be going but she misinterpreted it somewhere from perception to motion.
  • But the deeper effect of seeing the world from a different perspective, of calmly abiding in a topsy-turvy, upside-down world, may be the most profound benefit of all.
  • Not for the first time, I reflect on the topsy-turvy, upside-down parallel universe of India.
upside down, wrong side up, inverted, reversed, upset
informal bass-ackward, ass-backward
1.1In a state of confusion: the topsy-turvy months of the invasion
More example sentences
  • This topsy-turvy condition resulted in an expensive and chaotic quest for new artistic direction.
  • But Sarah's outlook remains optimistic and most importantly as balanced as it can be in the upside-down, topsy-turvy world of an actor.
  • It all converged one day during his topsy-turvy four-month ride as chief executive officer, when Upside magazine listed his company among the hot 100 firms in technology.
in disarray, in a mess, in a muddle, in disorder, disordered, jumbled, in chaos, chaotic, disorganized, awry, upside down, at sixes and sevens
informal every which way, higgledy-piggledy


[in singular]
A state of utter confusion.



Pronunciation: /ˈtərvəlē/
Example sentences
  • While groping her way about, Eve barked her shins against pieces of furniture that seemed to be lying topsy-turvily about.
  • There's joy in the berthing that's managed so scurvily, Pleasure in each individual lurch; Joy in the pitching about topsy-turvily, Fun in the custom-house officers’ search!
  • But alas, in our mechanical universe and in our seedy Romanesque society, things ideal have become perverted and many of our perceptions are based topsy-turvily on our opinions, which in turn are based on other opinions in a sprawling tissue of lies and nonsense, prejudice and superficialities.


Example sentences
  • The contrast between the Stowe / Lincoln and Truth / Lincoln meetings also sets up the metaphor of topsy-turviness.
  • A more radical example of my topsy-turviness: I fell in love briefly with a nature photographer I met at this same crafts fair.
  • The toddlers made fascinating subjects with their bewildered reactions to the topsy-turviness around them.


Early 16th century: a jingle apparently based on top1 and obsolete terve 'overturn'.

  • Things have been topsy-turvy since at least 1528. The term is probably based on top and turve, an old word meaning ‘to topple over, overturn’; the extra -ys are similar to those in hurly-burly (M16th from ‘hurling’ meaning ‘commotion’) and arsy-versy (also M16th, from arse and Latin versus, ‘turned’).

Words that rhyme with topsy-turvy

curvy, Nervi, nervy, scurvy

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: top·sy-tur·vy

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