con·​tort | \kən-ˈtȯrt \
contorted; contorting; contorts

Definition of contort 

transitive verb

: to twist in a violent manner features contorted with fury

intransitive verb

: to twist into or as if into a strained shape or expression His face contorted in a grimace of pain.

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Other Words from contort

contortion \ kən-​ˈtȯr-​shən \ noun
contortive \ kən-​ˈtȯr-​tiv \ adjective

Choose the Right Synonym for contort

deform, distort, contort, warp means to mar or spoil by or as if by twisting. deform may imply a change of shape through stress, injury, or accident of growth. a face deformed by hatred distort and contort both imply a wrenching from the natural or normal, but contort suggests a more involved twisting and a more grotesque and painful result. the odd camera angle distorts the figure disease had contorted her body warp indicates an uneven shrinking that bends or twists out of a flat plane. warped floorboards

Did You Know?

Circus contortionists are known for twisting their bodies into pretzels; such contortions tend to be easier for females than for males, and much easier for the young than for the old. When trying to say something uncomfortable or dishonest, people often go through verbal contortions. But when someone else "twists" something you said or did, we usually say instead that they've distorted it.

Examples of contort in a Sentence

His body contorted with pain. The boy contorted his body to squeeze through the gate. Her face was contorted with rage.
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Recent Examples on the Web

There’s a cameraman stationed in every corner of the small white tent functioning as Wilson’s dressing room, each awkwardly contorting his body to get a wide enough angle in the compact space. Olivia Horn, Vogue, "At Afropunk, H.E.R. Rules the Stage with Sunglasses, Space Buns, and a Feminist Message," 27 Aug. 2018 What follows is a nightmarish sequence of events: Waluigi dreams about a shadowy, contorting woman, before waking up in a car with his partner in crime, Wario. Shoshana Wodinsky, The Verge, "This masterpiece is not the Waluigi movie script we want, but it’s the one we deserve," 17 Aug. 2018 But not all social behaviors are entirely under individual mental control, and not all compulsions are just individual choices contorted into pathological obsession. Ian Bogost, The Atlantic, "Why Is There a ‘Gaming Disorder’ But No ‘Smartphone Disorder?’," 28 June 2018 No wonder the gay staff members at the Red Hen in Lexington, Va., didn’t feel great about serving a cheese plate to the woman who as press secretary contorted the meaning of that complex ruling. Petula Dvorak, Washington Post, "It’s okay to hate Trump staffers, but let them eat their cake (and cheese plate)," 25 June 2018 The engine is mounted with three pivot points, allowing the chassis to contort over rough roads. Casey Williams,, "Driving the Ford Model T through 110 years of American audacity," 3 July 2018 Yet there was Neymar, taking a split second to realize his opportunity, unleash that now-famous scream, then follow it up with a writhing, contorting, pounding-the-turf response worthy of Hollywood. Martin Rogers, USA TODAY, "For all his talent, Neymar is an embarrassment to soccer," 2 July 2018 Like Vigran, her affable personality helps in the somewhat stressful discipline of twisting, contorting, then entering the water in perfect symmetrical fashion. Scott Springer,, "Mariemont, Indian Hill, Turpin divers dip into creative pursuits inside, outside pool," 11 Jan. 2018 This allows you the option for the dryer to be totally heatless on an endless range of blow-dry speeds — without having to contort your finger to hold down the cold shot button. Rebecca Norris, Allure, "The "Heatless" Blow-Dryer From Hai Beauty Concepts That Dried My Hair in 10 Minutes," 15 June 2018

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

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First Known Use of contort

15th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

History and Etymology for contort

Middle English, from Latin contortus, past participle of contorquēre, from com- + torquēre to twist — more at torture entry 1

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Learn More about contort

Statistics for contort

Last Updated

14 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for contort

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

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More Definitions for contort



English Language Learners Definition of contort

: to twist into an unusual appearance or shape


con·​tort | \kən-ˈtȯrt \
contorted; contorting

Kids Definition of contort

: to give an unusual appearance or unnatural shape to by twisting His face contorted with anger.

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Comments on contort

What made you want to look up contort? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a private place of worship

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