The word comes from the Old Frenchtourbout, which in turn is thought to be a derivative of the Latin turbo ("spinning top") a possible reference to its shape. Early reference to the turbot can be found in a satirical poem (The Emperor's Fish) by Juvenal, a Roman poet of the late 1st and early 2nd centuries A.D., suggesting this fish was a delicacy in the Roman empire.
In Turkey, where the fish is popular and expensive, it is called "Kalkan"—"shield"—from the fish's resemblance to the item. Instead of a smooth skin, Kalkan (Scophthalmus maeoticus), which is from the Black Sea, has small spikes on both sides; it is considered a subspecies of the Mediterranean turbot (Scophthalmus maximus).
The turbot (Scophthalmus maximus) is a large left-eyed flatfish found primarily close to shore in sandy shallow waters throughout the Mediterranean, the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea and the North Atlantic. The European turbot has an asymmetrical disk-shaped body, and has been known to grow up to 100 cm (39 in) long and 25 kg (55 lb) in weight.