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[kohld-tur-kee] /ˈkoʊldˈtɜr ki/ Slang.

verb (used with object)
to withdraw from (an addictive substance or a habit) abruptly and completely.
verb (used without object)
to withdraw from an addictive substance or a habit abruptly and completely.
abrupt and complete:
cold-turkey withdrawal from drugs.
noun, Informal.
abrupt and complete withdrawal from the use of an addictive substance, as a narcotic drug, alcohol, or tobacco.
go cold turkey,

(slang) a method of curing drug addiction by abrupt withdrawal of all doses
the withdrawal symptoms, esp nausea and shivering, brought on by this method

“without preparation,” 1910; narrower sense of “withdrawal from an addictive substance” (originally heroin) first recorded 1921. Cold turkey is a food that requires little preparation, so “to quit like cold turkey” is to do so suddenly and without preparation. Cf. cold shoulder.

To “go cold turkey” is to withdraw suddenly and completely from an addictive substance or some other form of dependency: “Many people who attempt to quit smoking do so by going cold turkey rather than by gradually cutting down.”


Requiring abrupt and complete deprivation: They tried the cold-turkey cure (1921+)

adverb phrase


Basic; unadorned; hard-core: Stalin didn’t like certain cold-turkey facts Kennan reported (1920s+)

noun phrase

verb phrase

Related Terms

talk turkey
Immediate, complete withdrawal from something, especially an addictive substance; also, without planning or preparation. For example, My bad shoulder forced me to quit playing tennis cold turkey, or I’d never done any rock climbing, but decided to try it cold turkey. This term may have come from the earlier expression talk turkey (for blunt speaking). At first used strictly for abrupt withdrawal from drugs or alcohol, it soon was transferred to quitting any habit or activity. [ Early 1900s ]


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