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 He was killed, along with 646 others, when a Japanese torpedo ignited the ship’s aircraft bomb magazine on Nov. 23. Russ Read, Washington Examiner, "Doris Miller's other legacy: How a hero of Pearl Harbor helped pave the way for black sailors," 20 Jan. 2020 Miller was assigned to the aircraft carrier Liscome Bay, which less than a year after Pearl Harbor, was sunk by a Japanese torpedo. CBS News, "Next U.S. Navy aircraft carrier to be named after African American Pearl Harbor hero," 19 Jan. 2020 The researchers found that delaying the start of benefits until age 70 and tapping retirement funds instead could reduce the tax torpedo’s effect. Liz Weston, oregonlive, "Liz Weston: Tax preparers who don’t keep up with Social Security trends may give bad advice," 15 Dec. 2019 The ship had completed its 19th convoy in the European Theater on Sept. 26, 1918, and was sailing through the Bristol Channel when it was struck by a torpedo fired by the German submarine UB-91, according to the Coast Guard Historian’s Office. BostonGlobe.com, "A World War I veteran from Rhode Island was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart medal Wednesday from the US Coast Guard more than a century after he was killed in action.," 13 Dec. 2019 Things came to a head eight months into Putin’s Presidency, when a torpedo exploded in the bow of the Kursk, a nuclear submarine in the Barents Sea, killing a majority of the hundred and eighteen men aboard. Joshua Yaffa, The New Yorker, "The Kremlin’s Creative Director," 9 Dec. 2019 This person said the damage appeared to be consistent with a hit by a torpedo or other projectile. Costas Paris, WSJ, "U.S. Says Tehran Is to Blame for Attacks on Fuel Tankers," 14 June 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb He had been reassigned to the USS Liscome Bay, an escort carrier torpedoed and sunk by a Japanese submarine on Nov. 24, 1943, during the invasion of the Gilbert Islands. Todd J. Gillman, Dallas News, "Navy names aircraft carrier for Dorie Miller, black sailor from Waco and unlikely Pearl Harbor hero," 18 Jan. 2020 Bad habits prevalent in earlier losses to Baylor and Oklahoma returned and torpedoed the Longhorns (12-5, 2-3 Big 12). Nick Moyle, ExpressNews.com, "BKC Texas 1-19," 18 Jan. 2020 La Stella, who hit .300 with 16 homers and 44 RBIs in 78 games before a tibia fracture torpedoed his breakout season, will make $3.25 million in his final year of arbitration, an increase of $1.9 million over his 2019 salary. Los Angeles Times, "All arbitration-eligible Angels except outfielder Brian Goodwin agree to contracts," 10 Jan. 2020 The fireworks show is the latest in a long list of events torpedoed amid the city’s ongoing political unrest, including major business conferences, races, big-ticket concerts, and a major music festival. BostonGlobe.com, "Hong Kong has canceled its traditional New Year’s Eve fireworks show over security concerns, the latest popular event to be scrapped in the Asian financial hub amid ongoing pro-democracy protests.," 19 Dec. 2019 Penn State will sink from No. 4 in the CFP rankings after Captain Fleck’s crew torpedoed the Nittany Lions. Teddy Greenstein, chicagotribune.com, "5 things we learned about Big Ten football after Week 11, including ‘elite’ coaching at Minnesota and a day to remember for Lovie Smith. Plus, our updated power rankings.," 10 Nov. 2019 For Newsom, torpedoing Atkins’ signature legislation may have long-term political ripples. Julie Cart, The Mercury News, "Demise of key environment bill could escalate California’s water wars," 20 Sep. 2019 Not to be lost among all of the fish jokes is that fact that torpedoing a salmon several hundred feet in the air is a significant feat of engineering. Scottie Andrew, CNN, "The internet is going crazy over a 'salmon cannon' that shoots fish over a dam," 12 Aug. 2019 In one particularly high-profile clash, Mr. Lutsenko torpedoed a secret 2017 investigation by the anti-corruption bureau, which had been looking into a passport-for-sale racket run by immigration officials. Andrew Higgins, New York Times, "Meet the Ukrainian Ex-Prosecutor Behind the Impeachment Furor," 5 Oct. 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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Time Traveler for torpedo

Time Traveler

The first known use of torpedo was circa 1520

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Statistics for torpedo

Last Updated

27 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Torpedo.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/torpedoes. Accessed 20 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for torpedo

torpedo

noun
How to pronounce torpedo (audio)

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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