Cold turkey

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Cold turkey is a term that originated in North America with a slightly different meaning than the one it carries today. We will look at the definition of the term cold turkey, how its meaning has changed, and some examples of its use in sentences.

Cold turkey means to quit something abruptly and without preparation or fanfare. Presumably, the term echos the idea of a cold turkey dinner which is one that does not take a lot of preparation and is presented without fanfare. Primarily but not exclusively, cold turkey is used to describe ending the use of something addictive such as cigarettes, alcohol or other legal and illegal drugs. The implication is that quitting cold turkey involves enduring the pain of withdrawal without using any tools to alleviate that pain. Originally, cold turkey meant to speak plainly and bluntly, as in talk cold turkey. Today, someone who speaks plainly is said to talk turkey and someone who ceases an addictive activity such as smoking is said to be quitting cold turkey.


A reality show with a difference, for over two weeks we get to watch seven celebs who admit to having a terrible diet, go cold turkey from sugar. (The Sun)

No ‘Cherry Picking,’ as Britain’s Told to Go Cold Turkey on Free Trade With EU (Sputnik News)

This past November, volunteers signed up to quit smoking cold turkey as part of a 30-day smoke-free challenge, hosted by the Lung Association of Nova Scotia (LANS). (The Truro Daily News)

A woman told to come off Lyrica “cold turkey” said she nearly “went mad” with withdrawal symptoms, including aches all over, shivers, crying and lightheadedness. (The Irish Times)

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