tor·​por | \ ˈtȯr-pər How to pronounce torpor (audio) \

Definition of torpor

1a : a state of mental and motor inactivity with partial or total insensibility
b : a state of lowered physiological activity typically characterized by reduced metabolism, heart rate, respiration, and body temperature that occurs in varying degrees especially in hibernating and estivating animals

Choose the Right Synonym for torpor

lethargy, languor, lassitude, stupor, torpor mean physical or mental inertness. lethargy implies such drowsiness or aversion to activity as is induced by disease, injury, or drugs. months of lethargy followed my accident languor suggests inertia induced by an enervating climate or illness or love. languor induced by a tropical vacation lassitude stresses listlessness or indifference resulting from fatigue or poor health. a depression marked by lassitude stupor implies a deadening of the mind and senses by shock, narcotics, or intoxicants. lapsed into an alcoholic stupor torpor implies a state of suspended animation as of hibernating animals but may suggest merely extreme sluggishness. a once alert mind now in a torpor

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The English word torpor is a 13th-century borrowing from Latin: torpōr-, torpor mean "numbness, paralysis, absence of energy, lethargy," and correspond to the Latin verb torpēre, meaning "to be numb, lack sensation; to be struck motionless; to be sluggish or lethargic." Early use of the English word is found in a 13th-century guide for religious recluses, where it refers to a spiritual or intellectual lethargy, but scant evidence of the word appears between that point and the 1600s, when the word began to be used in reference to both mental and physical sluggishness. The related adjective torpid (from the Latin adjective torpidus, meaning "numbed" or "paralyzed") has since the 15th century been used to mean "numb," but today it more often means "lacking in energy or vigor."

Examples of torpor in a Sentence

The news aroused him from his torpor. after a lifetime of setbacks, defeats, and failures, he could only greet the latest bad news with a resigned fatalism and dull torpor
Recent Examples on the Web Now, as the continent emerges from a pandemic torpor, Germany is lagging behind. Tom Fairless, WSJ, 8 Nov. 2021 Weeks and then months pass in a torpor of cabin fever and green screens, and arguably things happen — a defection, a few infections, a sudden act of surprisingly squishy violence. Leah Greenblatt,, 1 Apr. 2022 Through decades of economic torpor, the country’s chief export was beef. Cullen Murphy, The Atlantic, 14 Mar. 2022 Although the British economy has slowly shaken off much of the torpor from the sharp recession brought on by the coronavirus, millions aren’t enjoying the recovery. New York Times, 4 Feb. 2022 While hibernating, ground squirrels enter a state called torpor. Matthew Regan, The Conversation, 27 Jan. 2022 But corruption flourished and Algerians grew increasingly angry at the political and economic torpor, fueling the mass protests that finally brought Bouteflika's presidency to an end. Reuters, CNN, 17 Sep. 2021 The assistance of Biden, Harris, and especially Sanders and Warrenwith their wide following on the left, surely helped rouse many Democrats from their summer torpor. Los Angeles Times, 7 Sep. 2021 Other indicators of the extent to which humidity seemed to create torpor and clog our atmosphere include the dew point. Washington Post, 17 July 2021 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'torpor.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of torpor

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for torpor

Middle English, borrowed from Latin torpōr-, torpor "numbness, paralysis, absence of energy, lethargy," s-stem noun derivative corresponding to the stative verb torpēre "to be numb, lack sensation, be struck motionless, be sluggish or lethargic" — more at torpid

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The first known use of torpor was in the 13th century

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Last Updated

2 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Torpor.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for torpor


tor·​por | \ ˈtȯr-pər How to pronounce torpor (audio) \

Medical Definition of torpor

: a state of mental and motor inactivity with partial or total insensibility : extreme sluggishness or stagnation of function

More from Merriam-Webster on torpor

Nglish: Translation of torpor for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about torpor


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