tor·​tu·​ous | \ ˈtȯrch-wəs How to pronounce tortuous (audio) , ˈtȯr-chə- \

Definition of tortuous

1 : marked by repeated twists, bends, or turns : winding a tortuous path
2a : marked by devious or indirect tactics : crooked, tricky a tortuous conspiracy
b : circuitous, involved the tortuous jargon of legal forms

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Other Words from tortuous

tortuously adverb
tortuousness noun

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Be careful not to confuse tortuous with torturous. These two words are relatives-both ultimately come from the Latin verb torquere, which means "to twist," "to wind," or "to wrench"-but tortuous means "winding" or "crooked," whereas torturous means "painfully unpleasant." Something tortuous (such as a twisting mountain road) might also be torturous (if, for example, you have to ride up that road on a bicycle), but that doesn't make these words synonyms. The twists and turns that mark a tortuous thing can be literal ("a tortuous path" or "a tortuous river") or figurative ("a tortuous argument" or "a tortuous explanation"), but you should consider choosing a different descriptive term if no implication of winding or crookedness is present.

Examples of tortuous in a Sentence

a tortuous path up the mountain a tortuous mountain road marked by numerous hairpin turns
Recent Examples on the Web Although the administration is now making more of an effort to expedite the special visas, the process is still tortuous. Tracy Wilkinson Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 21 July 2021 In those places as elsewhere, Internet connections are pitiable, roads beyond the highways often are tortuous, and the refugees to brighter prospects out of state tend to be younger, better educated and better trained. David M. Shribman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 15 July 2021 Her position as mistress of the estate is anomalous and discomfiting, and her negotiation through the customs of the Malagasy is both tortuous and instructive. Washington Post, 25 June 2021 Both have similarly tortuous processes to cancel a subscription or even to turn off automatic renewal. Roger Dooley, Forbes, 23 June 2021 The Fair Share proposal has followed a tortuous path., 10 June 2021 That often leads to gerrymandering — districts with sometimes tortuous boundaries created to favor a single party. Joe Garofoli, San Francisco Chronicle, 6 June 2021 Waddingham said the original scene was meant to be even more tortuous, with Unella being raped by Gregor Clegane, a.k.a. the Mountain (Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson). Maureen Lee Lenker,, 25 May 2021 His commute is a 14-mile trip as the crow flies, but a 33-mile route, because Palestinians are diverted in a wide loop around Jerusalem along a tortuous two-lane road of steep switchbacks. New York Times, 22 May 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'tortuous.' 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 tortuous

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for tortuous

Middle English, from Middle French tortueux, from Latin tortuosus, from tortus twist, from torquēre to twist

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Time Traveler for tortuous

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The first known use of tortuous was in the 15th century

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Last Updated

27 Jul 2021

Cite this Entry

“Tortuous.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Jul. 2021.

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More Definitions for tortuous



English Language Learners Definition of tortuous

: having many twists and turns
: complicated, long, and confusing


tor·​tu·​ous | \ ˈtȯr-chə-wəs How to pronounce tortuous (audio) \

Kids Definition of tortuous

: having many twists and turns a tortuous path


tor·​tu·​ous | \ ˈtȯrch-(ə-)wəs How to pronounce tortuous (audio) \

Medical Definition of tortuous

: marked by repeated twists, bends, or turns a tortuous blood vessel

Other Words from tortuous

tortuosity \ ˈtȯr-​chə-​ˈwäs-​ət-​ē How to pronounce tortuous (audio) \ noun, plural tortuosities
torturously adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on tortuous

Nglish: Translation of tortuous for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of tortuous for Arabic Speakers


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