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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 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for tortuous
  • The calculations can be complicated by the tortuous accounting used to calculate the private-equity industry's returns.
  • Physically he had survived, but mentally he carried that tortuous ordeal until the day he died.
  • The pursuit turned out to be long and tortuous, leading at last to the vast forests of scholastic science.
  • The second has involved a tortuous row over imported second-hand cars.
  • No less tortuous, in this season for corporate hospitality, is the line between legitimate and illegitimate entertaining.
  • Many at the conference likened it to the tortuous process of conquering addiction.
  • The directive has, after all, been a tortuous ten years in the making.
  • His goal was simple and clear, and yet the road toward it was tortuous beyond imagination.
  • Here's an example: suppose you have a long, tortuous expression in which there are a frighteningly large number of variables.
  • Additionally, social systems are complex enough that they may take a tortuous and circuitous route back toward equilibrium.
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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