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[tawr-choo-uh s] /ˈtɔr tʃu əs/
full of twists, turns, or bends; twisting, winding, or crooked:
a tortuous path.
not direct or straightforward, as in procedure or speech; intricate; circuitous:
tortuous negotiations lasting for months.
deceitfully indirect or morally crooked, as proceedings, methods, or policy; devious.
Origin of tortuous
1350-1400; Middle English < Latin tortuōsus, equivalent to tortu(s) a twisting (tor(quēre) to twist, bend + -tus suffix of v. action) + -ōsus -ous
Related forms
tortuously, adverb
tortuousness, noun
nontortuous, adjective
nontortuously, adverb
untortuous, adjective
untortuously, adverb
untortuousness, noun
Can be confused
tortuous, torturous (see usage note at torturous)
1. bent, sinuous, serpentine. 2. evasive, roundabout, indirect.
Usage note
See torturous. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for tortuous
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • If we look at him the typical countryman stands out clear from the mists of tortuous psychology.

    The African Colony John Buchan
  • Dick, will you tell me what I do know, if I do not read every turn and trick of their tortuous nature?

    Lord Kilgobbin Charles Lever
  • Slowly and through many a tortuous path she had sent help to Scotland; but, in the end, the deliverance was complete.

  • The Fortymile is a very picturesque but most tortuous river.

  • It seems the condensation of a whole youth of study, dreams and sentiment, of a tortuous, timorous youth.

    The Book of Masks Remy de Gourmont
  • There was a winding stair of stone, narrow and tortuous, in one corner of the tower.

    The Golden Dog William Kirby
British Dictionary definitions for tortuous


twisted or winding: a tortuous road
devious or cunning: a tortuous mind
Derived Forms
tortuously, adverb
tortuousness, noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for tortuous

late 14c., from Anglo-French tortuous (12c.), from Latin tortuosus "full of twists, winding," from tortus "a twisting, winding," from stem of torquere "to twist, wring, distort" (see thwart).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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tortuous in Medicine

tortuous tor·tu·ous (tôr'chōō-əs)
Having many turns; winding or twisting.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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