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

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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

Did You Know?

Our English word torpor looks the same and means the same thing as Latin torpor, from which it was borrowed into Middle English. It stems from the Latin verb torpēre, which means "to be sluggish or numb." "Torpor" first appeared in a 13th-century guide for religious recluses, where it referred to a spiritual or intellectual lethargy, but there is very little evidence of its use over next the 400 years. It began showing up again in the early 1600s in reference to both mental and physical sluggishness. The related adjective "torpid" (from the Latin adjective torpidus) entered the language in the 15th century.

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 Despite Iran’s entreaties, the Americans, nestled between two great oceans and comfortable with their isolationist torpor, demurred. Washington Post, "America and Iran, from fascination to antagonism," 26 Feb. 2021 Torpor is less intense than hibernation and Koch said bears can even wake up and leave the den before returning to the state of torpor again. Tess Williams, Anchorage Daily News, "Group accidentally encountered a brown bear den before one of them was mauled near Haines," 9 Feb. 2021 Some only entered torpor only briefly, and these lost up to 15 percent of their body weight overnight. Theresa Machemer, Smithsonian Magazine, "Hummingbirds in the Andes Go to Chilly Extremes for a Good Night’s Sleep," 11 Sep. 2020 Next, the researchers compared these to the areas lit up in mice that weren't experiencing torpor. John Timmer, Ars Technica, "Neurons discovered that put mice in a hibernation-like state," 14 June 2020 This lack of shivering was sort of an overnight torpor accomplished by the Bushmen, LeBlanc wrote. Ned Rozell, Anchorage Daily News, "Why is cold tolerance so unique to each individual?," 11 Oct. 2020 McKechnie tells the Times that this suggests the hummingbirds may enter torpor for several days in a row. Theresa Machemer, Smithsonian Magazine, "Hummingbirds in the Andes Go to Chilly Extremes for a Good Night’s Sleep," 11 Sep. 2020 Not only did every species of hummingbird go into torpor, but several reached surprisingly chilly temperatures. Lucy Hicks, Science | AAAS, "To survive frigid nights, hummingbirds cool themselves to record-low temperatures," 8 Sep. 2020 The study showed that rather than try to keep their temperature high overnight, the birds dropped into a state of torpor, where their heart rates and body temperature dropped. Theresa Machemer, Smithsonian Magazine, "Hummingbirds in the Andes Go to Chilly Extremes for a Good Night’s Sleep," 11 Sep. 2020

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.

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First Known Use of torpor

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

History and Etymology for torpor

Middle English, from Latin, from torpēre

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

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Last Updated

3 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Torpor.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Mar. 2021.

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More Definitions for torpor



English Language Learners Definition of torpor

formal : a state of not being active and having very little energy


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

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More from Merriam-Webster on torpor

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for torpor

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

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