1 : electric ray
2 : a weapon (such as a thin cylindrical self-propelled underwater projectile) for destroying ships by rupturing their hulls below the waterline
3 : a large sandwich on a long split roll with any of a variety of fillings : submarine
Did You Know?
Like the adjective torpid, torpedo can be traced back to the Latin verb torpēre, meaning "to be sluggish or numb." In Latin torpedo literally meant "stiffness" or "numbness." Torpedo was also the name given in Latin to the fish known as the electric ray, and it was as a name for the fish that torpedo first entered English. During the Napoleonic Wars, the American inventor Robert Fulton experimented with an explosive charge for use against warships which he called a "torpedo" (and which we would now refer to as a mine) after the electric ray's ability to incapacitate creatures with an electrical discharge. Fulton was also the inventor of the Nautilus, an early hand-powered submarine which was one of the precursors of the vessels that would deliver the more familiar cigar-shaped torpedoes with such devastating effects during the 20th century's two World Wars.
Among the undersea wreckage, the divers found an unexploded torpedo.
"An interactive exhibit also takes 'sailors' aboard the USS Tang, a submarine simulation, where you can relive the boat's final, heroic patrol before it sank—torpedo launches, sirens, and chaos ensue." — Meaghan O'Neill, The Boston Globe, 19 Mar. 2017
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Name That Synonym
What word is a synonym of torpedo in its "sandwich" sense and can also refer to a molar or an athlete who succeeds through hard work and determination?VIEW THE ANSWER
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