1 : marked by repeated twists, bends, or turns : winding
2 a : marked by devious or indirect tactics : crooked, tricky
b : circuitous, involved
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.
After it left the tree, the leaf followed a tortuous path through the air before settling on the ground.
"The decision in Vergara vs. California also describes the tortuous procedure schools must go through to fire teachers, a process that makes it so difficult to get rid of even the worst teachers that many schools don't bother trying." - The Los Angeles Times, June 11, 2014
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Name That Synonym
Fill in the blanks to create a synonym of "tortuous": sretn_. The answer is …
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