1 [ri-tawrt]
verb (used with object)
to reply to, usually in a sharp or retaliatory way; reply in kind to.
to return (an accusation, epithet, etc.) upon the person uttering it.
to answer (an argument or the like) by another to the contrary.
a severe, incisive, or witty reply, especially one that counters a first speaker's statement, argument, etc.
the act of retorting.

1590–1600; < Latin retortus (past participle of retorquēre to bend back), equivalent to re- re- + torqu(ēre) to twist, bend + -tus past participle suffix, with -qut- > -t-

retorter, noun

1. retaliate. 4. riposte, rejoinder, response. See answer. Unabridged


2 [ri-tawrt]
a vessel, commonly a glass bulb with a long neck bent downward, used for distilling or decomposing substances by heat.
a refractory chamber, generally cylindrically shaped, within which some substance, as ore or coal, is heated as part of a smelting or manufacturing process.
an airtight, usually cylindrical vessel of fire clay or iron, used in the destructive distillation chiefly of coal and wood in the manufacture of illuminating gas.
a sterilizer for food cans.
verb (used with object)
to sterilize food after it is sealed in a container, by steam or other heating methods.
Chemistry. to subject (shale, ore, etc.) to heat and possibly reduced pressure in order to produce fuel oil, metal, etc.

1550–60; < Middle French retorte < Medieval Latin retorta, noun use of feminine of Latin retortus; see retort1 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
retort1 (rɪˈtɔːt)
1.  (when tr, takes a clause as object) to utter (something) quickly, sharply, wittily, or angrily, in response
2.  to use (an argument) against its originator; turn the tables by saying (something)
3.  a sharp, angry, or witty reply
4.  an argument used against its originator
[C16: from Latin retorquēre to twist back, from re- + torquēre to twist, wrench]

retort2 (rɪˈtɔːt)
1.  a glass vessel with a round bulb and long tapering neck that is bent down, used esp in a laboratory for distillation
2.  a vessel in which large quantities of material may be heated, esp one used for heating ores in the production of metals or heating coal to produce gas
3.  (tr) to heat in a retort
[C17: from French retorte, from Medieval Latin retorta, from Latin retorquēre to twist back; see retort1]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin & History

c.1557, from L. retortus, pp. of retorquere "turn back," from re- "back" + torquere "to twist" (see thwart). The noun is 1600, from the verb.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Medical Dictionary

retort re·tort (rĭ-tôrt', rē'tôrt')
A closed laboratory vessel with an outlet tube, used for distillation, sublimation, or decomposition by heat.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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American Heritage
Science Dictionary
retort   (rĭ-tôrt', rē'-)  Pronunciation Key 
A glass laboratory vessel in the shape of a bulb with a long, downward-pointing outlet tube. It is used for distillation or decomposition by heat.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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Encyclopedia Britannica


vessel used for distillation of substances that are placed inside and subjected to heat. The simple form of retort, used in some laboratories, is a glass or metal bulb having a long, curved spout through which the distillate may pass to enter a receiving vessel. The design dates back to the cucurbit (flask) used by medieval alchemists.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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Example sentences
The skeptics retort that disease is a more likely explanation for the wrist
He lost no opportunity for indulging in the biting wit and faculty for stinging
  retort for which he is celebrated.
The suggestion that liquor licenses were too high brought the retort that they
  were not high enough.
The usual retort is naturally not wanting-that she is used to such things.
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