noun Also tortoise shell.

  1. a horny substance of a mottled brown and yellow coloration, composing the laminae that cover the inner body plates of the carapace of certain tortoises or turtles, especially the hawksbill, used for making combs and ornamental articles, inlaying, etc.
  2. any synthetic substance made to look like natural tortoiseshell.
  3. Also tortoiseshell butterfly. any of several nymphalid butterflies of the genus Nymphalis, as N. californica, having variegated markings of red, yellow, or orange on the wings.

adjective Also tor·toise-shell.

  1. mottled or variegated like tortoiseshell, especially with yellow and brown and sometimes other colors.
  2. made of tortoiseshell.


  1. a horny translucent yellow-and-brown mottled substance obtained from the outer layer of the shell of the hawksbill turtle: used for making ornaments, jewellery, etc
  2. a similar synthetic substance, esp plastic or celluloid, now more widely used than the natural product
  3. a breed of domestic cat, usually female, having black, cream, and brownish markings
  4. any of several nymphalid butterflies of the genus Nymphalis, and related genera, having orange-brown wings with black markings
  5. tortoiseshell turtle another name for hawksbill turtle
    1. a yellowish-brown mottled colour
    2. (as adjective)a tortoiseshell décor
  6. (modifier) made of tortoiseshella tortoiseshell comb
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