Simple Definition of tortuous
: having many twists and turns
: complicated, long, and confusing
Examples of tortuous in a sentence
a tortuous path up the mountain
<a tortuous mountain road marked by numerous hairpin turns>
Did You Know?
Be careful not to confuse tortuous with torturous. These two words are relatives-both ultimately come from the Latin verb torquere, which means "to twist," "to wind," or "to wrench"-but tortuous means "winding" or "crooked," whereas torturous means "painfully unpleasant." Something tortuous (such as a twisting mountain road) might also be torturous (if, for example, you have to ride up that road on a bicycle), but that doesn't make these words synonyms. The twists and turns that mark a tortuous thing can be literal ("a tortuous path" or "a tortuous river") or figurative ("a tortuous argument" or "a tortuous explanation"), but you should consider choosing a different descriptive term if no implication of winding or crookedness is present.
Origin of tortuous
Middle English, from Middle French tortueux, from Latin tortuosus, from tortus twist, from torquēre to twist
First Known Use: 15th century
TORTUOUS Defined for Kids
Definition of tortuous for Students
: having many twists and turns <a tortuous path>
Seen and Heard
What made you want to look up tortuous? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).