tortuous

adjective
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

Did You Know?

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

There's also something to be said for tortuous coworkers. Caroline Picard, Good Housekeeping, "Season 4 of 'The Good Place' Sounds Like It Will Be the Most Righteous One Yet," 3 May 2019 Behold the Commerce Department’s new and tortuous process for reviewing exemptions to steel and aluminum tariffs. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Trump’s Political Tariff Bureaucracy," 6 Aug. 2018 With the lease deal dead, the Air Force put out a request for proposals for a new tanker, initially labeled KC-X. In the tortuous drama that followed, a joint venture between Northrop Grumman and EADS, the European parent of Airbus, won. Jon Talton, The Seattle Times, "Boeing’s other problem: Much-needed Air Force tanker keeps hitting snafus," 12 Apr. 2019 After a tortuous courtship, Bertie, the future King George VI, gets his girl and a great love story ensues. WSJ, "Five Best: Robert Hardman on the Making of the Modern Monarchy," 25 Jan. 2019 In fact, this tortuous trajectory necessitated gravity slingshots around Earth, Venus, Earth, and finally Earth again before moving toward the outer Solar System. Eric Berger, Ars Technica, "A congressman’s loss clouds the future of two demanding missions to Europa," 3 Dec. 2018 Potomac Watch Podcast Potomac Watch Podcast Gerrymander cases are typically tortuous, and North Carolina’s is no exception. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "North Carolina’s Gerrymander Coup," 30 Aug. 2018 The award follows 18 months of an at times tortuous to-and-fro between the aerospace giant and President Donald Trump, who had threatened to cancel the planned sale over concerns about the cost of replacing the aging 747 jumbo jets. Doug Cameron, WSJ, "U.S., Boeing Complete $3.9 Billion Air Force One Deal," 17 July 2018 PowerPoint made simple things complicated by turning even the most basic subject into a byzantine series of lists, that then generated other equally tortuous lists, which then gave birth to still other heart-rending, soul-destroying lists. Joe Queenan, WSJ, "My Short List of Things That Need to Be ‘De-Invented’," 9 Nov. 2018

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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Last Updated

20 May 2019

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Time Traveler for tortuous

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

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More Definitions for tortuous

tortuous

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of tortuous

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

tortuous

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

Kids Definition of tortuous

: having many twists and turns a tortuous path

tortuous

adjective
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 tortuosity (audio) \ noun, plural tortuosities
torturously adverb

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More from Merriam-Webster on tortuous

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for tortuous

Spanish Central: Translation of tortuous

Nglish: Translation of tortuous for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of tortuous for Arabic Speakers

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