- the hard, mottled, yellow-and-brown shell of some turtles and tortoises, used in inlaying and, esp. formerly, in making combs, frames for eyeglasses, etc.
- a synthetic substance made in imitation of this
- a mottled, yellow-and-brown color pattern
- any of several common, black and yellow-brown butterflies (genus Nymphalis) with markings resembling those of tortoise shell
- a cat with a mottled coat of black, brown, red or yellow, white, etc.
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also tor·toise-shell or tor·toise shellnoun
- a. The mottled, horny, translucent, brownish covering of the carapace of certain tortoises or turtles, especially the hawksbill, used to make combs, jewelry, and other articles.b. A synthetic imitation of natural tortoiseshell.
- See hawksbill.
- A domestic cat having fur with brown, black, and yellowish markings.
- Any of several butterflies, chiefly of the genus Nymphalis, having wings with orange, black, and brown markings.
- torˈtoise·shellˌ adjective