When you're walking on the perfect green grass of a golf course, you might remark on the gorgeous turf. Turf is the top layer of ground, especially when it's planted with grass.

From its original meaning, referring to the top layer of soil in which plants are rooted, turf has expanded to include a range of senses. While you might carefully maintain your beautiful backyard turf, your dog might think of it as his turf, barking to defend it from intruders. This sense of turf means "range of influence," or territory. Both meanings of the word come from a Germanic root that originated in a Sanskrit word, darbha, "blade of grass."

Definitions of turf
  1. noun
    the territory claimed by a juvenile gang as its own
    see moresee less
    type of:
    city district
    a district of a town or city
  2. noun
    range of jurisdiction or influence
    “a bureaucracy...chiefly concerned with turf...and protecting the retirement system”
    see moresee less
    type of:
    in law; the territory within which power can be exercised
  3. noun
    surface layer of ground containing a mat of grass and grass roots
    synonyms: greensward, sod, sward
    see moresee less
    a piece of turf dug out of a lawn or fairway (by an animals hooves or a golf club)
    type of:
    ground, land, soil
    material in the top layer of the surface of the earth in which plants can grow (especially with reference to its quality or use)
  4. verb
    cover (the ground) with a surface layer of grass or grass roots
    see moresee less
    type of:
    provide with a covering or cause to be covered
Word Family

Test prep from the experts

Boost your test score with programs developed by Vocabulary.com’s experts.

  • Proven methods: Learn faster, remember longer with our scientific approach.
  • Personalized plan: We customize your experience to maximize your learning.
  • Strategic studying: Focus on the words that are most crucial for success.


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 8 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 10 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week


  • Number of words: 700+
  • Duration: 10 weeks
  • Time: 1 hour / week