from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun The keeper of the keys in a prison; a jailer.
  • adjective Supplied, installed, or purchased in a condition ready for immediate use, occupation, or operation.
  • adjective Of or relating to something supplied, installed, or purchased in this manner.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun The person who has charge of the keys of a prison, for opening and fastening the doors; a prison warden.
  • noun An instrument, now almost obsolete, used for extracting teeth.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • adjective Of or pertaining to a building, complex device, system, or industrial installation which is sold by a contractor only after it is ready for immediate occupation or use; fully functional and ready for use; -- used of complex systems of a type which often require preparation or installation by the user before being capable of functioning as intended.
  • noun A person who has charge of the keys of a prison, for opening and fastening the doors; a warder.
  • noun (Dentistry) An instrument with a hinged claw, -- used for extracting teeth with a twist.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • adjective ready to use without further assembly or test; supplied in a state that is ready to turn on and operate (typically refers to an assembly that is outsourced for manufacture)
  • noun A warder or jailer / gaoler; keeper of the keys in a prison.
  • verb to supply a turnkey product; to supply something fully assembled and ready to use

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun someone who guards prisoners


from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From turn + key.



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  • Thereupon the magistrate withdrew, assuring me that the gaoler should be ordered to give me free egress. In fact, the very next moment the turnkey came into my dungeon...

    - Lesage, The Adventures of Gil Blas of Santillane, tr. Smollett, bk 1 ch. 13

    September 12, 2008

  • "A system or software package that has been built, installed or supplied by the manufacturer complete and ready to operate. In the computer industry, the term is used to promote a system that can be easily set up and operated 'right out of the box.'"

    February 27, 2009

  • God, I hate marketing lingo, especially when it usurps a wonderful, vivid word like turnkey. In my view, this self-promotional usage, and the marketeers who came up with it, are shovel-ready. Do any of these people read books?

    *feels himself turning into a curmudgeon; sort of likes it, sort of doesn't*

    February 27, 2009

  • I always think of turnkey and thumbscrew together. That is, whenever I hear turnkey I then think of thumbscrew and vice-versa. Then I almost always remember that actor who had kind of bulging eyes (not Marty Feldman) who wore, in at least one movie, a sackcloth garb, had kind of a Beatles haircut and was somebody's turnkey, thumbscrew, or sidekick. What was his name...?

    February 27, 2009

  • Tyrion called Mord this in an episode of Game Of Thrones when he was imprisoned at The Eyrie.

    June 11, 2012