adjective tor·tu·ous \ ˈtȯrch-wəs , ˈtȯr-chə- \
Updated on: 25 Dec 2017

Definition of tortuous

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





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Examples of tortuous in a Sentence

  1. a tortuous path up the mountain

  2. a tortuous mountain road marked by numerous hairpin turns

Recent Examples of tortuous from the Web

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.

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.

Origin and Etymology of tortuous

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

TORTUOUS Defined for English Language Learners



Definition of tortuous for English Language Learners

  • : having many twists and turns

  • : complicated, long, and confusing

TORTUOUS Defined for Kids


adjective tor·tu·ous \ ˈtȯr-chə-wəs \

Definition of tortuous for Students

: having many twists and turns
  • a tortuous path

Medical Dictionary


adjective tor·tu·ous \ ˈtȯrch-(ə-)wəs \

medical Definition of tortuous

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


play \ˈtȯr-chə-ˈwäs-ət-ē\ noun plural -ties



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