Definition of “turn” - English Dictionary

“turn” in British English

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uk /tɜːn/ us /tɝːn/

turn verb (GO ROUND)

B2 [ I or T ] to (cause to) move in a circle around a fixed point or line:

The earth turns on its axis once every 24 hours.
She turned on her toes, holding out her skirt.
The wheels started to turn (around).
Turn the steering wheel as quickly as you can.
She turned the doorknob and quietly opened the door.
Slowly, I turned the door handle.

More examples

  • There was no air conditioning, just a ceiling fan turning slowly.
  • I heard someone turn a key in the lock.
  • She turned the handle and slowly opened the door.
  • We watched as the sails of the windmill slowly started to turn.
  • When this wheel turns, it makes those big stones turn which grind the grain into flour.


A2 [ I or T ] to (cause to) change the direction in which you are facing or moving:

Turn right at the traffic lights.
The path twists and turns for the next half mile.
We have to turn down/into/up the next road on the right.
Plants tend to turn towards the source of light.
She turned to face him.
He turned round and waved to us.
He turned on his heel (= turned quickly to face the opposite direction) and left the room.
The person on my left turned to me and whispered "Not another speech!"
His wife tried to speak to him, but he turned his back (on her)/turned away (from her) (= moved so that his back, not his face, was towards her to show his anger).
At about three o'clock, the tide started to turn (= the sea started to come closer to or move away from the beach).
He turned his head to me to listen.
I'll just turn the car round and go back the way we came.
We watched until the car had turned (= gone around) the corner.
The army turned their guns on (= pointed them at and started to shoot at) the protesters.
She can turn (= perform) a somersault.

More examples

  • Follow the road for two kilometres, then turn left.
  • The sight was so horrible that I had to turn away.
  • He would always turn and wave at the end of the street.
  • The intruders turned and ran as the police shone their torches full on them.
  • The plane turned northwards.


B1 [ I or T ] to move, or to move an object or page, so that a different side or surface is on the top:

Now turn the page, please, and start work on Exercise 2.
She turned the vase over to look for the price.
He turned over two or three pages.
She put out the light, turned over (= rolled in order to face in another direction) and went to sleep.
Now turn to (= open the book at) page 23 and look at the first paragraph.

More examples

  • The car spun off the road, turned over twice and came to rest in a field.
  • That painting is upside-down - turn it the other way, quick!
  • It's time to turn the cassette over - that side's finished.
  • Turn the cushion the other way up, so that the stain doesn't show.
  • He keeps turning the pages, but I don't think he can actually be reading it that quickly.

turn verb (BECOME)

B2 [ L, I or T usually + adv/prep ] to (cause to) become, change into, or come to be something:

The weather has suddenly turned cold.
When I refused to pay, he turned nasty.
She turned pale and started to shiver.
The mood of the meeting turned solemn when the extent of the problem became known.
The companies worked well together for a while, but eventually the relationship turned sour (= became bad).
Keele, pop star turned business tycoon, has launched a new range of cosmetics.
The dry weather turned the soil into/to concrete.
By the end of September, the leaves have started to turn (= become brown).
Her attitude turned from politely interested to enthusiastic during the course of our conversation.
turn 16, nine o'clock, etc.

C1 to become a particular age or time:

She turned 18 last year.
It's just turned ten o'clock.

More examples

  • He started to turn grey in his mid-forties.
  • We're planning to turn the smallest bedroom into an office.
  • The situation could turn nasty at any moment.
  • He was an amateur singer until the age of 40, when he turned professional.
  • You make wine by leaving grape juice to ferment until all the sugar has turned to alcohol.

turn verb (SWITCH)

A2 [ I or T, usually + adv/prep ] to use a control to switch a piece of equipment or a power or water supply on or off, or to increase or reduce what it is producing:

Turn off/out the light.
Who turned the TV on?
I asked him to turn down the heating.
Turn the sound up - I can't hear what they're saying.
The heater turns off (= can be switched off) using this switch.

More examples

  • Could you turn the light off, please?
  • To turn the television on, you just push this button.
  • The bath is running over - quick, turn the taps off.
  • Are you comfortable or shall I turn the heat down?
  • The electricity has been turned off.


uk /tɜːn/ us /tɝːn/

turn noun (TIME TO DO STH)

B1 [ C ] an opportunity or a duty to do something at a particular time or in a particular order, before or after other people:

Is it my turn yet?
[ + to infinitive ] I waited so long for my turn to see the careers adviser that I missed my bus.
It's your turn to do the dishes!
In this game if you give the wrong answer you have to miss a turn.
take turns B2 UK also take it in turn(s)

When a number of people take turns, they do the same thing one after the other:

We take turns answering the phone.
in turn C1 also by turns

one after the other in an agreed order:

Each of us takes a break in turn.

More examples

  • Whose turn is it to buy the drinks?
  • I'm sorry, but you'll just have to wait your turn like everybody else.
  • Get to the end of the queue and wait your turn like everyone else.
  • Come on, it's my turn. Fair's fair!
  • Fair go mate, let the others have a turn!

turn noun (GO ROUND)

[ C ] an action that causes something to move in a circle round a fixed point:

Give the screw a couple of turns to make sure it's tight.

More examples

  • I gave the knob a couple of turns.
  • One turn is enough to get the heating going.
  • It took several violent turns of the handle to set the tractor in motion.


B2 [ C ] a change in the direction in which you are moving or facing:

When you see the school on the left, make a right turn.
The path was full of twists and turns.
on the turn

Something that is on the turn is about to change direction:

The tide is on the turn.
the turn of sth

C2 the point at which something changes or moves in a different direction:

the turn of the tide
She was born around the turn of the century (= around 1900, 2000, etc.).

More examples

  • Take a right turn by the station.
  • Just take three left turns and you will reach the school.
  • I remembered to get to your house it was a left turn after the traffic lights.
  • He tried to take the turn too quickly and veered off the road.

(Definition of “turn” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

“turn” in American English

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us /tɜrn/

turn verb (GO AROUND)

[ I/T ] to move or cause something to move in a circle around a central point or line:

[ I ] The earth turns on its axis once every 24 hours.
[ T ] She turned the doorknob and opened the door.


[ I/T ] to change the direction in which you are facing or moving, or to cause someone or something to face or move in a different direction:

[ I ] They told us to turn right at the first traffic light.
[ T ] Turn your head this way so that you’re looking right at the camera.
[ I ] I turned to the person next to me and asked her what time it was.
[ T ] The car turned (= went around) the corner.
[ I ] fig. He felt desperate and didn’t know where to turn for help.
[ I ] I turned over (= changed how I was lying) and tried to sleep, but quickly gave up.

[ I/T ] If you turn something or turn something over, you place the surface that was on top on the bottom:

[ T ] He turned the pages of a magazine.
[ M ] She turned the baby over onto his stomach.

turn verb (BECOME)

to become or cause to become, change, or come to be:

[ L ] The weather suddenly turned colder, and it started to rain.
[ I ] By mid-September, the leaves are starting to turn (= change color).

You say that someone turns a particular color when strong emotion or illness causes that person’s face to appear red, gray, yellow, etc:

[ L ] He turned red with embarrassment.

Turn is used with times and ages to show that a particular point has been reached or passed:

[ L ] My little girl just turned six in February.

turn verb (SWITCH)

[ always + adv/prep ] to use a control to switch a piece of equipment on or off, or to adjust it to change the amount of what it is producing:

[ M ] Please turn off/out the lights when you leave.
[ M ] Who turned my computer on/off?
[ M ] Turn the TV down (= make the sound quieter) – it’s too loud.
[ M ] Turn up the volume – I can’t hear what they’re saying.

turn verb (TWIST)

[ T ] to damage the muscles in the foot by suddenly bending it too strongly:

to turn your ankle

turn verb (MAKE ILL)

[ I/T ] to feel that you are going to vomit, or to cause your stomach to feel this way:

[ I/T ] The stench made my stomach turn.

turnnoun [ C ]

us /tɜrn/

turn noun [ C ] (OPPORTUNITY)

an opportunity or a duty to do something at a particular time or in a particular order, before or after other people:

[ + to infinitive ] It’s your turn to do the grocery shopping.

turn noun [ C ] (CHANGING DIRECTION)

a change in the direction in which you are moving or facing:

Make a left turn at the next traffic light.

turn noun [ C ] (GOING AROUND)

the act of causing something to move in a circle around a fixed point:

This little wheel will shut off the water if you give it several turns.

(Definition of “turn” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)

“turn” in Business English

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turnverb [ I or T ]

uk /tɜːn/ us

to change into something or make something change into something:

turn sth into sth These machines can turn a computer design into a 3-D prototype in minutes.
With some wise internet trading, he managed to turn $68,000 into $100,000 in three years.

to change direction, or to make something change direction:

The first quarter could see a further decline in retail customers, though executives said they were confident the trend will turn.
turn negative/positive Sales are expected to turn positive in the first quarter of next year.
turn sth on its head

to make something the opposite of what it was previously:

The internet turned the world of flight booking on its head.
turn a profit

FINANCE to make a profit:

The business was set up five years ago but is still struggling to turn a profit.
turn sth to your advantage

to find a way of getting something positive out of a bad situation:

Experienced long-term investors can turn an economic downturn to their advantage.
turn your back on sth

to refuse to be involved in something that you were previously involved in:

He said the country could not turn its back on globalization.


uk /tɜːn/ us

[ S ] FINANCE, ECONOMICS a change in the way something such as prices, rates, or the economy is behaving:

It is too early to know whether the economy has reached a turn in the cycle.
take a turn for the better/worse Media stocks took a turn for the better.
bad/downward/upward turn The figures have taken a downward turn.

[ C ] FINANCE, STOCK MARKET the profit from an investment:

The shares were picked up by investors looking to make a quick turn on their money.

[ C ] STOCK MARKET, FINANCE the difference between a trader’s buying price and selling price for particular shares, currencies, etc.

See also

(Definition of “turn” from the Cambridge Business English Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)

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