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 torpedoing (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

Secret recording devices are revealed, a Russian number station is constantly picked up on the radio, and nuclear warhead torpedoes are fired. oregonlive.com, "‘Our Ruined House’ mixes surrealism, humor to explore erosion of trust," 1 July 2019 Where Petersen’s three-hour epic was itself a U-boat, silent and heavy and claustrophobic for much of its run time, this new version is a torpedo, efficient and relentless. Adrian Daub, The New Republic, "Hulu’s Das Boot Gets Lost at Sea," 19 June 2019 Such arrays are long, thin tubes packed with sophisticated electronics that can detect underwater threats from submarines, torpedoes and mines, and are designed to be towed behind warships. The Economist, "China crisis: October 2020," 4 July 2019 Reuters also quoted a senior official of Taiwanese state oil refiner CPC Corp as saying the Front Altair, a tanker chartered by CPC to carry fuel from the Middle East, was apparently hit by a torpedo. CBS News, "Iran "responsible" for tanker attacks in Gulf of Oman, Pompeo says," 13 June 2019 Initial reports say at least one of the tankers was hit by a torpedo, and sank after its crew was rescued by the Iranians. David Meyer, Fortune, "Mark Zuckerberg's Privacy Practices: CEO Daily," 13 June 2019 Once their torpedoes were expended, Kairyus would have then rammed allied ships. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "In the Last Days of World War II, Japan Fielded a Fleet of Kamikaze Mini-Subs," 11 Feb. 2019 Along with bombs, grenades and torpedoes, toys are slated for tariffs sometime this summer if trade talks are not resolved. Rubén Rosario, Twin Cities, "Rosario: This toy story may not have a happy ending," 21 June 2019 But torpedoes are generally used by submarines, and of all the local navies, only Iran has submarines of the Kilo, Fateh, and Nahang classes. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "Two Oil Tankers Attacked in the Middle East, U.S. Destroyer Rescues Crew," 13 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Johnson then torpedoed his working majority in Parliament by sacking 21 rebel lawmakers from his own party who joined with the opposition in voting to block a no-deal Brexit. Ivana Kottasová, CNN, "Boris Johnson launches non-election campaign with awkward, rambling speech," 5 Sep. 2019 But the tensions in the south could torpedo efforts in Hodeidah, as the coalition’s allies battle each other, allowing the Houthi rebels opportunities to seize territory. Washington Post, "Six reasons the crisis in Yemen’s south matters," 30 Aug. 2019 And questions on Capitol Hill about the qualifications of two picks for the Federal Reserve effectively torpedoed them. Nicholas Fandos, New York Times, "Republican Senators Are Cool to Trump’s Choice for Top Intelligence Post," 29 July 2019 Democrats, who have seen Trump torpedo several immigration deals, remain skeptical about coming to the table. Tara Golshan, Vox, "Congress’s chaotic scramble to address Trump’s family separation border policy, explained," 20 June 2018 Sometimes, the fact-check will torpedo his own team. David French, National Review, "PolitiFact Should Have the Courage to Tell the Truth," 15 Aug. 2019 Although the trade fight between the world's two largest economies has yet to inflict serious harm on either country, Fed officials fear that the prospects of a long, grueling conflict could eventually torpedo both consumer and business confidence. Alain Sherter, CBS News, "Trump's new tariff takes aim at two foes: China and the Fed," 2 Aug. 2019 In 1945, the Portland class heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis, having just delivered components of the atomic bomb to Tinian in the Mariana Islands, was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine; only 317 out of nearly 1,200 men survived. BostonGlobe.com, "This day in history," 30 July 2019 Hofeller memo, which came to light in early June, likely torpedoed the citizenship question’s chances before the high court. Matt Ford, The New Republic, "Trump’s Cynical War on American Citizenship," 30 July 2019

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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Statistics for torpedo

Last Updated

25 Aug 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for torpedo

The first known use of torpedo was circa 1520

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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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