Chinese water torture

noun

: a form of torture in which a person is restrained and subjected to repetitive drips of water on the forehead
I heard beeping for two days … It was driving me crazy like Chinese water torture.Carol Kallberg, Daily Record (Wooster, Ohio), 14 Oct. 2012
often used figuratively
Better to execute layoffs quickly and decisively, experts say … The alternate—the drip-drip-drip of repeated downsizings—is a Chinese water torture that kills morale and productivity.Daniel McGinn, Newsweek, 25 June 2001

Word History

First Known Use

1892, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of Chinese water torture was in 1892

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Cite this Entry

“Chinese water torture.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Chinese%20water%20torture. Accessed 23 Jul. 2024.

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