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  1. the act of inflicting excruciating pain, as punishment or revenge, as a means of getting a confession or information, or for sheer cruelty.
  2. a method of inflicting such pain.
  3. Often tortures. the pain or suffering caused or undergone.
  4. extreme anguish of body or mind; agony.
  5. a cause of severe pain or anguish.
verb (used with object), tor·tured, tor·tur·ing.
  1. to subject to torture.
  2. to afflict with severe pain of body or mind: My back is torturing me.
  3. to force or extort by torture: We'll torture the truth from his lips!
  4. to twist, force, or bring into some unnatural position or form: trees tortured by storms.
  5. to distort or pervert (language, meaning, etc.).

Origin of torture

First recorded in 1530–40, torture is from the Late Latin word tortūra a twisting, torment, torture. See tort, -ure
Related formstor·tur·a·ble, adjectivetor·tured·ly, adverbtor·tur·er, nountor·ture·some, adjectivetor·tur·ing·ly, adverbo·ver·tor·ture, verb (used with object), o·ver·tor·tured, o·ver·tor·tur·ing.pre·tor·ture, noun, verb (used with object), pre·tor·tured, pre·tor·tur·ing.self-tor·ture, nounself-tor·tured, adjectiveself-tor·tur·ing, adjectiveun·tor·tured, adjective

Synonyms for torture

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6. See torment. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for torturing

Contemporary Examples of torturing

Historical Examples of torturing

  • His sad, pock-marked face had a torturing fascination for her.

    Weighed and Wanting

    George MacDonald

  • Oh, what a torturing, doubt-raising, perplexing thing this Love was!

    The Foolish Lovers

    St. John G. Ervine

  • "You have been torturing him," she cried, and her words were hard and fierce, her eyes blazing.

    The Shame of Motley

    Raphael Sabatini

  • We have not been torturing him, though I confess that we were on the point of putting him to the question.

    The Shame of Motley

    Raphael Sabatini

  • And yet, what home-coming could have brought him such a torturing joy as was now his?

    Mistress Wilding

    Rafael Sabatini

British Dictionary definitions for torturing


verb (tr)
  1. to cause extreme physical pain to, esp in order to extract information, break resistance, etcto torture prisoners
  2. to give mental anguish to
  3. to twist into a grotesque form
  1. physical or mental anguish
  2. the practice of torturing a person
  3. a cause of mental agony or worry
Derived Formstortured, adjectivetorturedly, adverbtorturer, nountorturesome or torturous, adjectivetorturing, adjectivetorturingly, adverbtorturously, adverb

Word Origin for torture

C16: from Late Latin tortūra a twisting, from torquēre to twist


The adjective torturous is sometimes confused with tortuous. One speaks of a torturous experience, i.e. one that involves pain or suffering, but of a tortuous road, i.e. one that winds or twists
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 torturing



early 15c., "contortion, twisting, distortion," from Old French torture "infliction of great pain, great pain, agony," and directly from Late Latin torture "a twisting, writhing, torture, torment," from stem of Latin torquere "to twist, turn, wind, wring, distort" (see thwart).



1580s, from torture (n.). Related: Tortured; torturing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper