torpedo

noun
tor·pe·do | \ tȯr-ˈpē-(ˌ)dō \
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 \

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

Keep scrolling for more

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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

There is definitely a resemblance, though torpedoes do not typically have wings. Michael Mcgough, sacbee, "Tahoe deputies help find missing UC Davis research robot that resembles torpedo," 4 June 2018 But Kaibab is a torpedo, launching from the rim and chasing a ridgeline down and out across the Canyon. Roger Naylor, azcentral, "10 best hikes in Arizona show off state's diverse scenery," 13 July 2018 Which brings us back to motivation, and the reality that even a damn-the-torpedoes offer might not be enough to equal the Celtics second or third-best potential offer. David Murphy, Philly.com, "Kawhi Leonard trade sweepstakes may get too steep for Sixers if Lakers, Celtics make best offers | David Murphy," 28 June 2018 With no prior warning, UB-29 fired a torpedo from 1,400 yards, tearing off the ferry’s bow. Joshua Levine, Smithsonian, "The Hunt for the Notorious U-Boat UB-29," 19 Apr. 2018 Marsha Ginsberg’s scenic design is dominated by the production’s most effective visual element: a gunmetal-gray, rotating carnival ride with five torpedo-like cars painted with grinning shark faces. Robert Greskovic, WSJ, "‘Peter Pan’ Review: A Modern Neverland," 11 July 2018 Shortly after finding the Lexington, Allen’s team found the wreck of the USS Juneau, which was sunk by a Japanese torpedo with the loss of 687 sailors in 1942. James Rogers, Fox News, "Wreck of WWII ship discovered 74 years after it disappeared during a rescue mission," 25 May 2018 The ship was sunk by a Japanese torpedo in November 1942. Mary Bowerman, USA TODAY, "Infamous USS Juneau that sank during WWII with five Sullivan brothers aboard discovered in Pacific," 20 Mar. 2018 The Poseidon can track ships and submarines across vast areas of ocean, deploying missiles, depth charges and torpedoes from a rotary launcher to sink them if necessary. Rob Taylor, WSJ, "New Zealand Buys Boeing Surveillance Jets to Counter Chinese Buildup," 9 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Clinton supporters believe Comey's actions, far from hurting Trump, may well have torpedoed her chance of becoming president. chicagotribune.com, "Trump says FBI was 'plotting against' me, casts doubt on potential Mueller interview," 15 June 2018 Clinton supporters believe Comey’s actions, far from hurting Trump, may well have torpedoed her chance of becoming president. Anne Flaherty, Time, "Trump Still Says the FBI Was 'Plotting Against My Election'," 15 June 2018 In the end, Perry’s own career staff torpedoed his preordained conclusions. Basav Sen, Fortune, "Trump Thinks Propping Up Failing Coal Is a ‘National Security’ Emergency," 31 May 2018 At the same time, Gov. Rick Scott of Florida, a multimillionaire who can finance his own campaigns, entered the race against Senator Bill Nelson, and Republicans torpedoed the coal magnate and ex-convict Don Blankenship in West Virginia. Jonathan Martin, New York Times, "Senate Republicans Are Newly Hopeful About the Midterms. For Good Reason.," 2 June 2018 Badly damaged, Juneau survived the night only to be fatally torpedoed next morning, sinking in minutes. Chris Stirewalt, Fox News, "The House is revolting," 25 May 2018 France recently came close to torpedoing the start of EU membership talks for Macedonia and Albania. The Economist, "How policy debates in Europe become untethered from reality," 12 July 2018 Seals are known for their impressive diving skills, with some species torpedoing down to depths of 2,000 feet even in sub-zero temperatures. Kasha Patel, Smithsonian, "How Data-Gathering Seals Help Scientists Measure the Melting Antarctic," 13 July 2018 Triumphant, tetchy or torpedoed One possibility (call this scenario Triumphant Trump) is that the summit goes fine. The Economist, "Will Donald Trump be Triumphant, Tetchy or Torpedo?," 5 July 2018

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about torpedo

Listen to Our Podcast about torpedo

Statistics for torpedo

Last Updated

8 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for torpedo

The first known use of torpedo was circa 1520

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

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

: to destroy or stop (something) completely

torpedo

noun
tor·pe·do | \ tȯr-ˈpē-dō \
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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on torpedo

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

WORD OF THE DAY

an open space surrounded by woods

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Name that Food Quiz

Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!