What It Means
1 : marked by repeated twists, bends, or turns : winding
"What a cast! A tsunami of lawyers, such as William Evarts, Benjamin Butler and others swept over Washington with a vengeance, launching long-winded speeches—one lasted 14 hours—and tortuous explanations of policies." — Sam Coale, The Providence Journal, 23 May 2019
"Introduced to the Tour in 2012, the Planche des Belles Filles ascent immediately became a classic. Set up in the Vosges mountains, it is steep, tortuous and brutal, featuring a 20 percent gradient at the top." — Samuel Petrequin, The Associated Press, 1 July 2019
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.
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