an·​frac·​tu·​ous an-ˈfrak-chə-wəs How to pronounce anfractuous (audio)
: full of windings and intricate turnings : tortuous

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The Unbreakable Anfractuous

Plots and paths can be anfractuous. They twist and turn but do not break. Never mind that the English word comes ultimately from the Latin verb frangere, meaning "to break." (Frangere is also the source of fracture, fraction, fragment, and frail.) But one of the steps between frangere and anfractuous is Latin anfractus, meaning "coil, bend." The prefix an- here means "around." At first, anfractuous was all about ears and the auditory canal's anfractuosity, that is, its being curved rather than straight. Anfractuous has been around for centuries, without a break, giving it plenty of time to wind its way into other applications; e.g., there can be an anfractuous thought process or an anfractuous shoreline.

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web That psychological tendency reared its ugly head in an anfractuous, torturous, and turnover-filled 109-103 loss to the Miami Heat on Saturday night at TD Garden. Globe Staff,, 22 May 2022

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'anfractuous.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


French anfractueux, from Late Latin anfractuosus, from Latin anfractus coil, bend, from an- (from ambi- around) + -fractus, from frangere to break — more at ambi-, break

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of anfractuous was in the 15th century


Dictionary Entries Near anfractuous

Cite this Entry

“Anfractuous.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Dec. 2022.

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