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noun tor·pe·do \tȯr-ˈpē-(ˌ)dō\

Simple Definition of torpedo

  • : a bomb that is shaped like a tube and that is fired underwater

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of torpedo

plural torpedoes

  1. 1 :  electric ray

  2. 2 :  a weapon for destroying ships by rupturing their hulls below the waterline: asa :  a submarine mineb :  a thin cylindrical self-propelled underwater projectile

  3. 3 :  a small firework that explodes when thrown against a hard object

  4. 4 :  a professional gunman or assassin

  5. 5 :  submarine 2

Examples of torpedo in a sentence

  1. The battleship was sunk by a torpedo fired by a submarine.

  2. <that deli's torpedoes are big enough to serve two people>

Did You Know?

Like the adjective "torpid," "torpedo" can be traced back to the Latin verb torpēre, meaning "to be sluggish or numb." In Latin torpedo referred to stiffness or numbness, and also to the crampfish or electric ray. "Torpedo" first entered English as a name for the electric ray. During the Napoleonic Wars, the American inventor Robert Fulton experimented with an explosive charge for use against warships which he called a "torpedo" (and which we would now refer to as a mine), after the electric ray's ability to incapacitate creatures it comes in contact with. Fulton was also the inventor of the "Nautilus," an early hand-powered submarine which was one of the precursors of the vessels that would deliver the more familiar cigar-shaped torpedoes with such devastating effects during the 20th century's two World Wars.

Origin of torpedo

Latin, literally, stiffness, numbness, from torpēre to be sluggish or numb — more at torpid

First Known Use: circa 1520



transitive verb tor·pe·do

Simple Definition of torpedo

  • : to hit or sink (a ship) with a torpedo

  • : to destroy or stop (something) completely

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of torpedo

torpedoedtorpedoing \-ˈpē-də-wiŋ\

  1. 1 :  to hit or sink (a ship) with a naval torpedo :  strike or destroy by torpedo

  2. 2 :  to destroy or nullify altogether :  wreck <torpedo a plan>

Examples of torpedo in a sentence

  1. The submarine torpedoed the battleship.

  2. Her injury torpedoed her goal of competing in the Olympics.

Circa 1879

First Known Use of torpedo

circa 1879

TORPEDO Defined for Kids



noun tor·pe·do \tȯr-ˈpē-dō\

Definition of torpedo for Students

plural tor·pe·does

  1. :  a long narrow self-propelled underwater weapon used for blowing up ships

History for torpedo

In 1776, David Bushnell, a supporter of the American cause in the Revolutionary War, built a wooden submarine with a detachable container of gunpowder that could be hooked to an enemy ship and set to explode after the submarine steered clear. Bushnell is believed to have dubbed the container with the Latin word torpedo, “electric ray,” that is, a fish that delivers an electric shock. Though Bushnell's submarine and explosive device never damaged a British vessel, the name torpedo was later applied to modern weapons used to attack ships.



verb tor·pe·do

Definition of torpedo for Students


  1. :  to hit with or destroy by a torpedo

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up torpedo? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to defraud especially of money

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