an·​frac·​tu·​ous | \ an-ˈfrak-chə-wəs How to pronounce anfractuous (audio) , -shə-; -chü-əs, -shü- \

Definition of anfractuous

: full of windings and intricate turnings : tortuous

The Unbreakable Anfractuous

Plots and paths can be anfractuous. They twist and turn but do not break. Never mind that our English word comes from Latin anfractus (same meaning as anfractuous), which in turn comes from the Latin verb frangere, meaning "to break." (Frangere is also the source of fracture, fraction, fragment, and frail.) 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. Now anfractuous has been around some 400 years, 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.

First Known Use of anfractuous

15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for anfractuous

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

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

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Cite this Entry

“Anfractuous.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Sep. 2021.

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