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torpedo

[tawr-pee-doh]
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noun, plural tor·pe·does.
  1. 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.
  2. any of various submarine explosive devices for destroying hostile ships, as a mine.
  3. a cartridge of gunpowder, dynamite, or the like, exploded in an oil well to facilitate the extraction of oil from the well.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Also called torpedo fish. an electric ray, especially Torpedo nobiliana, of the Atlantic Ocean.
  7. an electric catfish, Malapterurus electricus, inhabiting waters of tropical central Africa and the Nile valley.
  8. Informal. a hero sandwich.
  9. Slang. a gangster hired as a murderer.
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verb (used with object), tor·pe·doed, tor·pe·do·ing.
  1. to attack, hit, damage, or destroy with torpedoes.
  2. to explode a torpedo in (an oil well) to facilitate the extraction of oil.
  3. to undermine, ruin, or destroy: He torpedoed our plans.
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verb (used without object), tor·pe·doed, tor·pe·do·ing.
  1. to attack, damage, or sink a ship with torpedoes.
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Origin of torpedo

1510–20; < Latin torpēdō numbness, torpidity, electric ray, equivalent to torpē(re) to be stiff (see torpid1) + -dō noun suffix
Related formstor·pe·do·like, adjectiveun·tor·pe·doed, adjective

Regional variation note

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for torpedoing

torpedo

noun plural -does
  1. a cylindrical self-propelled weapon carrying explosives that is launched from aircraft, ships, or submarines and follows an underwater path to hit its target
  2. obsolete a submarine mine
  3. US and Canadian a firework containing gravel and a percussion cap that explodes when dashed against a hard surface
  4. US and Canadian a detonator placed on a railway line as a danger signal
  5. any of various electric rays of the genus Torpedo
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verb -does, -doing or -doed (tr)
  1. to hit (a ship, etc) with one or a number of torpedoes
  2. to render ineffective; destroy or wreckto torpedo the administration's plan
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Derived Formstorpedo-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

Word Origin and History for torpedoing

torpedo

n.

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.

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torpedo

v.

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

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper