Definition of tortoiseshell in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈtôrdə(s)ˌSHel/


1The semitransparent mottled yellow and brown shell of certain turtles, typically used to make jewelry or ornaments.
Example sentences
  • These included shell, coral, tortoiseshell, lava, jet, ivory, and paste.
  • It was a strange coloured little creature, speckled brown like tortoiseshell.
  • Originals or copies of Greek statues, objects of gold or silver, ivory or tortoiseshell, intaglios, cameos, and vases of precious stone accumulated in Roman palaces and villas, and statuary adorned their gardens.
1.1A synthetic substance made in imitation of this.
Example sentences
  • He brushed a fringe of fine, mousy hair from his face and pushed his imitation tortoiseshell glasses up his narrow nose.
  • I also noticed that my glasses, once tortoiseshell and chic, had become wire frame and sort of angular.
  • You just pay a lot of money,’ he tells me, polishing his decades-old tortoiseshell spectacles across the table linen. ‘I could put my prices up to any level and the tourists would still come.
2 short for tortoiseshell cat.
Example sentences
  • It is just a quirk that people would rather take on coloured cats like tortoiseshells.
  • One of the curlicues was a black-and-white shorthair male; one was a black shorthair female; the third was a tortoiseshell shorthair female.
  • The cat could be a tabby, a tortoiseshell, maybe even a Siamese.
3 short for tortoiseshell butterfly.
Example sentences
  • Not just the usual cabbage whites this year, but tortoiseshells, red admirals, painted ladies and peacock butterflies too.
  • A tortoiseshell sipping nectar from my grape hyacinths.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: tor·toise·shell

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