Definition of tortuous in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈtôrCH(o͞o)əs/


1Full of twists and turns: the route is remote and tortuous
More example sentences
  • Varicose veins are tortuous, twisted, or lengthened veins.
  • The Ryder Cup trail has often been tortuous, twisting and downright tedious, but the rewards to the Scottish economy are expected to be enormous.
  • Eventually, after a particularly tortuous twist, the path opened out and they came to the Cave of the Prophet.
twisting, twisty, twisting and turning, winding, windy, zigzag, sinuous, snaky, serpentine, meandering, circuitous
1.1Excessively lengthy and complex: a tortuous argument
More example sentences
  • Instead of destroying their sculptures, managers have to hand their work over to a different group to complete - a tortuous experience.
  • But where does the inquiry go from here after the tortuous and lengthy taking of the evidence?
  • The classification of tropical karst is highly complex, with a tortuous terminology derived from several languages.
convoluted, complicated, complex, labyrinthine, tangled, tangly, involved, confusing, difficult to follow, involuted, lengthy, overlong, circuitous


On the difference between tortuous and torturous, see torturous (usage).



Pronunciation: /ˌtôrCHo͞oˈäsədē/
noun (plural tortuosities)
Example sentences
  • The permeance is a composite quantity consisting of the diffusion coefficient, the partition coefficient, the membrane thickness, and the tortuosity of the diffusional path length.
  • The tortuosity of the cytosol, due to the presence of t-tubules and mitochondria, will increase the effective distance Na has to travel from one compartment to the other and thus might reduce the apparent D Na.
  • Thus the main diffusion hindrance for these molecules should be the tortuosity of the diffusion path.


Pronunciation: /ˈtôrCH(o͞o)əslē/
tortuously twisting logic
More example sentences
  • Last night I went through a series of garish and tortuously overplotted dreams.
  • We wound our way tortuously through the rugged hills of the Sierra de la Peña.
  • Not only did we break the story about the new kitemark for credit cards, but we pre-empted the statement by outlining the tortuously complicated way charges are levied on customers.


Pronunciation: /ˈtôrCH(o͞o)əsnəs/
Example sentences
  • A focal stenosis on a straight artery without proximal vessel tortuousness or involvement of major side branches is ideal for percutaneous intervention.
  • Murrayfield's media centre, the usual home for the tautology and tortuousness of Scottish rugby-speak, was never like this.
  • The tortuousness of the judiciary, however frustrating it is, does not mutate him from suspect to terrorist.


Late Middle English: via Old French from Latin tortuosus, from tortus 'twisting, a twist', from Latin torquere 'to twist'.

  • torch from Middle English:

    A torch in the original sense of ‘something soaked in an inflammable substance used to give light’ was often made of twisted hemp or other fibres. This is still the American meaning, and reflects the word's Latin origin, torquere ‘to twist’. Only in British English can torch describe a battery-powered electric lamp, which Americans call a flashlight. A torch song is a sad or sentimental song of unrequited love, whose name, used since the 1920s, comes from the phrase carry a torch for, ‘to love someone who does not love you in return’. The image in pass on the torch, ‘to pass on a tradition, especially one of learning or enlightenment’, is that of the runners in a relay race passing on the torch to each other, as was the custom in the ancient Greek Olympic Games. The Latin source of torch, torquere, is found in a large number of other English words. Most obviously it is the source of the engineer's torque (late 19th century), and the twisted Celtic neck-ring the torc (mid 19th century). Less obviously it is in contort (Late Middle English) ‘twist together’; distort (Late Middle English) ‘twist out of shape’; extort (early 16th century) ‘twist out of’; and retort (Late Middle English) ‘to twist back’ (the chemical apparatus gets its name from its twisted shape). Tortura ‘twisting, torment’ the Latin noun formed from the verb gives us torture and tortuous (both LME), and torment (Middle English). Thwart (Middle English) is an Old Norse word that goes back to the same Indo-European root.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: tor·tu·ous

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