retort

1 of 4

verb (1)

re·​tort ri-ˈtȯrt How to pronounce retort (audio)
retorted; retorting; retorts

transitive verb

1
: to pay or hurl back : return
retort an insult
2
a
: to make a reply to
b
: to say in reply
3
: to answer (an argument) by a counter argument

intransitive verb

1
: to answer back usually sharply
2
: to return an argument or charge
3

retort

2 of 4

noun (1)

: a quick, witty, or cutting reply
especially : one that turns back or counters the first speaker's words

retort

3 of 4

noun (2)

re·​tort ri-ˈtȯrt How to pronounce retort (audio)
ˈrē-ˌtȯrt
: a vessel or chamber in which substances are distilled or decomposed by heat

Illustration of retort

Illustration of retort
  • 3retort

retort

4 of 4

verb (2)

re·​tort ri-ˈtȯrt How to pronounce retort (audio)
ˈrē-ˌtȯrt
retorted; retorting; retorts

transitive verb

: to treat (something, such as oil shale) by heating in a retort
Choose the Right Synonym for retort

answer, response, reply, rejoinder, retort mean something spoken, written, or done in return.

answer implies the satisfying of a question, demand, call, or need.

had answers to all their questions

response may imply a quick or spontaneous reaction to a person or thing that serves as a stimulus.

a response to the call for recruits

reply often suggests a thorough response to all issues, points, or questions raised.

a point-by-point reply to the accusation

rejoinder can be a response to a reply or to an objection.

a salesman with a quick rejoinder to every argument

retort implies a reaction to an implicit or explicit charge, criticism, or attack which contains a countercharge or counterattack.

she made a cutting retort to her critics

Examples of retort in a Sentence

Verb (1) when told she couldn't have it, she retorted, "Fine, I didn't want it anyway!" Noun (1) she responded to the heckler with a scathing but hilarious retort that instantly won over the audience the salesclerk responded to my query about the price with a brusque retort
Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
Those within the Premier League who would rather neither of those things come to pass, though, have a retort that sounds genuinely compelling. Rory Smith, New York Times, 3 May 2024 By telegraphing its intentions, directing its strikes at only select military targets instead of population centers, and announcing afterward that those attacks would conclude its retaliatory actions, Iran hoped to stave off an Israeli military retort. Afshon Ostovar, Foreign Affairs, 19 Apr. 2024 But the president’s blood pressure is a poor retort to the signs of aging that are in plain sight. Robin Givhan, Washington Post, 13 Feb. 2024 Trump’s Response: Outages on Trump’s platform, Truth Social, interrupted the barrage of derogatory posts that served as his retort to Biden’s remarks. Nicholas Nehamas, New York Times, 8 Mar. 2024 To highlight some of Mr. Trump’s more inflammatory remarks, the Biden team has begun producing split-screen videos of the president watching them on an iPad and then delivering a pithy retort. Maggie Haberman, New York Times, 5 Mar. 2024 Yamaha is by no means a battery-swapping pioneer, but its entry into that space signals a powerful retort to skeptics who still believe that battery swapping will never be as commonplace as pulling up to a charging facility and plugging in. IEEE Spectrum, 12 Feb. 2024 The next year, in 2006, Dr. Ballard published a lengthy retort. Catherine Porter, New York Times, 11 Sep. 2023 The retort is that if the generative AI is giving foul advice or misguided advice, there might be more harm taking place than good. Lance Eliot, Forbes, 11 Dec. 2023
Verb
Libertarians retort that everyone has a certain moral legitimacy to his own income, well deserved because of his hard work, intelligence, and thrift. Joseph E. Stiglitz, Fortune, 12 May 2024 Deadpool retorts, provoking Wolverine to strike his crotch with those claws before Deadpool shoots him several times in the torso. Diego Ramos Bechara, Variety, 22 Apr. 2024 Some would retort that this is no longer an AI hallucination. Lance Eliot, Forbes, 29 Feb. 2024 Photo: Shutterstock Snarky retorts, fleeting male nudity, and a proposal scene cut short by an unexpected nosebleed are just some of the elements that set Autumn de Wilde’s Regency romp apart from the average Jane Austen adaptation. Radhika Seth, Vogue, 22 Feb. 2024 There is no foolproof quantitative metric used to hire someone, Cuban retorted after Musk asked when the Mavericks would hire a short, white, or Asian woman. Emma Burleigh, Fortune, 7 Feb. 2024 Cynics may retort that Manchin has regularly and vociferously opposed any EV rebates and may simply have been trying to make as many cars as possible ineligible for as long as possible. Andrew Cunningham, Ars Technica, 29 Nov. 2023 Haley retorted, before abruptly moving on to the next question. Meg Kinnard, Fortune, 28 Dec. 2023 Republican lawmakers have retorted that their colleagues on the other side of the aisle are trying to gain a partisan advantage. Lalee Ibssa, ABC News, 7 Dec. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'retort.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Verb (1)

Latin retortus, past participle of retorquēre, literally, to twist back, hurl back, from re- + torquēre to twist — more at torture entry 1

Noun (2)

Middle French retorte, from Medieval Latin retorta, from Latin, feminine of retortus; from its shape

First Known Use

Verb (1)

circa 1505, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

Noun (1)

1610, in the meaning defined above

Noun (2)

1527, in the meaning defined above

Verb (2)

1850, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of retort was circa 1505

Dictionary Entries Near retort

Cite this Entry

“Retort.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/retort. Accessed 25 May. 2024.

Kids Definition

retort

1 of 3 verb
re·​tort ri-ˈtȯ(ə)rt How to pronounce retort (audio)
1
: to answer back : reply angrily or sharply
2
: to reply to an argument with an opposing argument

retort

2 of 3 noun
: a quick, witty, or angry reply

retort

3 of 3 noun
re·​tort ri-ˈtȯ(ə)rt How to pronounce retort (audio)
ˈrē-ˌtȯ(ə)rt
: a container in which substances are distilled or broken down by heat
Etymology

Verb

from Latin retortus, past participle of retorquēre, literally "to twist back, hurl back," from re- "back, again" and torquēre "to twist" — related to distort, extort, torture

Noun

from early French retorte "a vessel in which substances are distilled," derived from Latin retortus, past participle of retorquēre "to twist"; probably so called from its shape

Medical Definition

retort

noun
: a vessel or chamber in which substances are distilled or decomposed by heat

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