A Word A Day : Tortuous

Saturday, 5th January 2008 : Today's Word is ...


( Adjective )

Pronunciation : táwr-choo-ess

1. with many turns or bends

2. extremely complex or intricate

3. deceitfully indirect or morally crooked, as proceedings, methods, or policy


14th century - Via Anglo-Norman - Latin tortuosus - torquere - to twist


anfractuous, bent, circuitous, convoluted, crooked, curved, flexuous, indirect, involute, mazy, meandering, meandrous, serpentine, sinuous, snaky, twisting, vermiculate, winding, zigzag


direct, straight, untwisted, easy, straightforward, uncomplicated, clear, easy, obvious, plain, simple

Contextual Examples:

• We went by a tortuous road through the mountains.

• I was dissatisfied with the tortuous negotiations lasting for months.

• Days passed and nights. And then the beautiful Bermudas rose out of the sea, we entered the tortuous channel, steamed hither and thither among the bright summer islands, and rested at last under the flag of England and were welcome.

Related Words:

tortuously : Adverb

tortuousness: Noun

NOTE: tortuous and torturous

Even though both words come ultimately from the same Latin word, torquere meaning to twist, their meanings diverge in English. A mountain pass is tortuous (with many turns or bends), and by figurative extension, a legal argument can be tortuous (complex or intricate) as well.

A severe illness, and by figurative extension a decision may be torturous (causing anguish).

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