Definition of anfractuous
: full of windings and intricate turnings : tortuous
anfractuous was our Word of the Day on 04/07/2015. Hear the podcast!
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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.
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