torpedo

noun
tor·​pe·​do | \ tȯr-ˈpē-(ˌ)dō How to pronounce torpedo (audio) \
plural torpedoes

Definition of torpedo

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a weapon for destroying ships by rupturing their hulls below the waterline: such as
a : a submarine mine
b : a thin cylindrical self-propelled underwater projectile
2 : a small firework that explodes when thrown against a hard object
4 : a professional gunman or assassin

torpedo

verb
torpedoed; torpedoing\ tȯr-​ˈpē-​də-​wiŋ How to pronounce torpedo (audio) \

Definition of torpedo (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to hit or sink (a ship) with a naval torpedo : strike or destroy by torpedo
2 : to destroy or nullify altogether : wreck torpedo a plan

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Did You Know?

Noun

Like the adjective "torpid," "torpedo" can be traced back to the Latin verb torpēre, meaning "to be sluggish or numb." In Latin torpedo referred to stiffness or numbness, and also to the crampfish or electric ray. "Torpedo" first entered English as a name for the electric ray. During the Napoleonic Wars, the American inventor Robert Fulton experimented with an explosive charge for use against warships which he called a "torpedo" (and which we would now refer to as a mine), after the electric ray's ability to incapacitate creatures it comes in contact with. Fulton was also the inventor of the "Nautilus," an early hand-powered submarine which was one of the precursors of the vessels that would deliver the more familiar cigar-shaped torpedoes with such devastating effects during the 20th century's two World Wars.

Examples of torpedo in a Sentence

Noun The battleship was sunk by a torpedo fired by a submarine. that deli's torpedoes are big enough to serve two people Verb The submarine torpedoed the battleship. Her injury torpedoed her goal of competing in the Olympics.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun During the dive, the team was able to clearly see the destroyer’s two 5-inch gun turrets, twin torpedo racks and gun mounts on the superstructure, along with her battle scars. Rachel Cormack, Robb Report, "The World’s Deepest Known Shipwreck Has Just Been Rediscovered," 2 Apr. 2021 Meanwhile, German torpedo boats, attracted by unusually active radio traffic, sank two landing vessels, killing 749 more US troops. BostonGlobe.com, "At age 100, a veteran looks back at D-Day, Battle of the Bulge," 25 Mar. 2021 This allowed a dozen of his stealthy unmanned torpedo boats to close within a kilometer of the vanguard and launch their ordnance. Elliot Ackerman, Wired, "2034, Part IV: The Spratly Islands Ambush," 16 Feb. 2021 Among them is a nineteen-year-old girl, Helen, newly married, whose husband was killed in the torpedo attack. Joan Acocella, The New Yorker, "Graham Greene’s Dark Heart," 15 Mar. 2021 Casanega would later disagree with the Vietnam War, but the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor inspired him to enlist on principle in the Navy and become a pilot, flying torpedo bombers. Eric Branch, San Francisco Chronicle, "The last living original 49er: Ken Casanega's remarkable life reaches 100," 13 Mar. 2021 That allows other parts of the immune system to recognize, neutralize and destroy anything covered in those proteins, such as virus particles or infected cells — like a proton torpedo hitting the exhaust port and causing the Death Star to explode. Jv Chamary, Forbes, "This Star Wars Analogy Explains How RNA Vaccines Work," 25 Feb. 2021 Republicans would rather order the Code Red, torpedo the economy further in the hopes that the electorate will come to believe that the only solution is to elect Republicans to Congress in 2022. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, "No One’s Buying the Republicans’ Deficit Fearmongering Anymore," 22 Feb. 2021 A half dozen torpedo-armed Kamov helicopters launched from three separate Jiangkai II-class frigates scored four out of six hits, one of which struck the Ford itself, disabling its rudder. Elliot Ackerman, Wired, "2034, Part IV: The Spratly Islands Ambush," 16 Feb. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb In recent years, Erdogan and other members of his ruling party have joined the calls to torpedo the agreement, citing a threat to conservative mores. Washington Post, "Erdogan pulls Turkey out of European treaty aimed at protecting women from violence," 20 Mar. 2021 More aggressive enforcement, like the controversial lawsuit launched by the Securities and Exchange Commission against crypto firm Ripple in December, could torpedo the prospects of both Coinbase and the crypto industry. Jeff John Roberts, Fortune, "Coinbase is pegged for a valuation of up to $75 billion. Is that realistic?," 14 Jan. 2021 In Pennsylvania, Trump loyalists are already trying to torpedo the chances of former Rep. Ryan Costello, a moderate Republican, to follow free-market purist Pat Toomey, who is also not seeking another term. Philip Elliott, Time, "Why Mitch McConnell Might Not Get a Donald Trump Reprieve," 9 Mar. 2021 The Padres can, and many times do, buy insurance to protect against injuries that can torpedo big contracts. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Column: Padres chairman: Financial push for Fernando Tatis ‘completely sustainable’," 18 Feb. 2021 To the point that a loss could torpedo UO’s NCAA Tournament bid. James Crepea | The Oregonian/oregonlive, oregonlive, "Oregon Ducks men’s basketball resume review: Nonconference opponents toeing Q1, Q2 line," 24 Feb. 2021 Anxiety and despair surrounding kids in cages or attacks on the Affordable Healthcare Act or escalating international tensions could torpedo the imagination. Judy Berman, Time, "Donald Trump's Presidency Was Supposed to Be Great for Art. It Wasn't," 5 Jan. 2021 President Donald Trump has threatened to torpedo Congress’ massive COVID-19 relief package, demanding changes that fellow Republicans have opposed. Elinor Aspegren, USA TODAY, "Coronavirus updates: CDC projects up to 420K deaths by mid-January; California is first state to 2M cases; COVID vaccine plans vary by state," 24 Dec. 2020 Then the Jets managed to torpedo that with a historically improbable upset. Andrew Beaton, WSJ, "The New York Jets Won a Game—and May Have Lost Trevor Lawrence," 21 Dec. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'torpedo.' 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 torpedo

Noun

circa 1520, in the meaning defined at sense 3

Verb

circa 1879, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for torpedo

Noun

Latin, literally, stiffness, numbness, from torpēre to be sluggish or numb — more at torpid

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Time Traveler for torpedo

Time Traveler

The first known use of torpedo was circa 1520

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Statistics for torpedo

Last Updated

5 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Torpedo.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/torpedo. Accessed 11 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for torpedo

torpedo

noun

English Language Learners Definition of torpedo

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a bomb that is shaped like a tube and that is fired underwater

torpedo

verb

English Language Learners Definition of torpedo (Entry 2 of 2)

: to hit or sink (a ship) with a torpedo
somewhat informal : to destroy or stop (something) completely

torpedo

noun
tor·​pe·​do | \ tȯr-ˈpē-dō How to pronounce torpedo (audio) \
plural torpedoes

Kids Definition of torpedo

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a long narrow self-propelled underwater weapon used for blowing up ships

torpedo

verb
torpedoed; torpedoing

Kids Definition of torpedo (Entry 2 of 2)

: to hit with or destroy by a torpedo

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Comments on torpedo

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