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[tawr-pee-doh] /tɔrˈpi doʊ/
noun, plural torpedoes.
a self-propelled, cigar-shaped missile containing explosives and often equipped with a homing device, launched from a submarine or other warship, for destroying surface vessels or other submarines.
any of various submarine explosive devices for destroying hostile ships, as a mine.
a cartridge of gunpowder, dynamite, or the like, exploded in an oil well to facilitate the extraction of oil from the well.
a detonating device fastened to the top of a rail so as to be exploded by the pressure of a locomotive or car, thus giving an audible signal to members of a train crew.
any of various other explosive devices, as a firework that consists of an explosive wrapped up with gravel in a piece of tissue paper and that detonates when thrown forcibly on the ground or against a hard surface.
Also called torpedo fish. an electric ray, especially Torpedo nobiliana, of the Atlantic Ocean.
an electric catfish, Malapterurus electricus, inhabiting waters of tropical central Africa and the Nile valley.
Informal. a hero sandwich.
Slang. a gangster hired as a murderer.
verb (used with object), torpedoed, torpedoing.
to attack, hit, damage, or destroy with torpedoes.
to explode a torpedo in (an oil well) to facilitate the extraction of oil.
to undermine, ruin, or destroy:
He torpedoed our plans.
verb (used without object), torpedoed, torpedoing.
to attack, damage, or sink a ship with torpedoes.
1510-20; < Latin torpēdō numbness, torpidity, electric ray, equivalent to torpē(re) to be stiff (see torpid1) + -dō noun suffix
Related forms
torpedolike, adjective
untorpedoed, adjective
Regional variation note Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for torpedo
  • They can tap either bottom corner to fire a torpedo, and tilt their device to aim.
  • Everyone in the business knows financial woes helped torpedo the first wave of atomic ambition four decades ago.
  • He was too pleased with himself to notice the shimmering torpedo emerge from the depths.
  • Behar unpacks a video camera protected in a torpedo-shaped steel housing.
  • It's astonishing to see a film begin this brilliantly only to torpedo itself in its final hour.
  • They torpedo their prey from below, and often lift their heads above water to check out their surroundings.
  • As a counter against torpedo boats, navies built a slightly larger ship, armed with torpedoes and heavier guns.
  • torpedo boat a small, fast surface vessel designed for launching torpedoes.
British Dictionary definitions for torpedo


noun (pl) -does
a cylindrical self-propelled weapon carrying explosives that is launched from aircraft, ships, or submarines and follows an underwater path to hit its target
(obsolete) a submarine mine
(US & Canadian) a firework containing gravel and a percussion cap that explodes when dashed against a hard surface
(US & Canadian) a detonator placed on a railway line as a danger signal
any of various electric rays of the genus Torpedo
verb (transitive) -does, -doing, -doed
to hit (a ship, etc) with one or a number of torpedoes
to render ineffective; destroy or wreck: to torpedo the administration's plan
Derived Forms
torpedo-like, adjective
Word Origin
C16: from Latin: crampfish (whose electric discharges can cause numbness), from torpēre to be inactive; see torpid
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 torpedo

1520s, "electric ray," from Latin torpedo, originally "numbness" (from the effect of being jolted by the ray's electric discharges), from torpere "be numb" (see torpor). The sense of "explosive device used to blow up enemy ships" is first recorded 1776, as a floating mine; the self-propelled version is from 1860s.


1873, from torpedo (n.). Figurative sense attested from 1895. Related: Torpedoed; torpedoing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for torpedo


Related Terms


The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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