View synonyms for torturous


[ tawr-cher-uhs ]


  1. pertaining to, involving, or causing torture or suffering.

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Confusables Note

Torturous refers specifically to what involves or causes pain or suffering: prisoners working in the torturous heat; torturous memories of past injustice. Some speakers and writers use torturous for tortuous , especially in the senses “twisting, winding” and “convoluted”: a torturous road; torturous descriptions. Others, however, keep the two adjectives (and their corresponding adverbs) separate in all senses: a tortuous (twisting) road; tortuous (convoluted) descriptions; torturous (painful) treatments.

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Other Words From

  • tortur·ous·ly adverb

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Word History and Origins

Origin of torturous1

First recorded in 1490–1500; from Anglo-French; Old French tortureus; torture, -ous

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Example Sentences

“To ensure that no minor in Minnesota- anyone under 18, our Minnesotans, is subjected to this Byzantine torturous practice of conversion therapy,” Walz said.

It’s an exhilarating and torturous time for movie musical fans.

My sensitivity grew, and even casual comments could feel torturous.

The Oscar-nominated 2019 Netflix film can be torturous to watch, as Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver’s relationship unravels, but you can’t look away.

From Ozy

Martinez shared in his Instagram stories that while he’d hoped Rapoport’s resignation would lead to meaningful change, the five weeks of contract negotiations were “torturous and dehumanizing,” and ultimately did not result in a fair pay rate.

From Eater

Rick better get used to torturous trials because they are never going away.

Virginians worried about their scandal-plagued governor, torturous traffic, and government furloughs can breathe a little easier.

The results are tedious rather than amusing, and the whole thing feels dated and torturous.

A 16th-century iron corset looks precisely as frightening and torturous as it sounds.

Torturous force feedings and hunger strikes at Guantánamo Bay are a sign of just how desperate the men there are.

He crouched, nerves and muscles tense, controled in spite of the torturous cloud of scalding vapor that pressed close to him.

When all was in readiness a Negro sergeant in the British service was seized, and put to a torturous death.

In an iron cage called the Cage of St. Michel, a torturous contrivance, state prisoners used to be confined.

Owing to the torturous mountain roads we were close to this building before observing it.

What happened after that, though it lasted seven long and torturous years, is fairly familiar to the American people.


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Torturous Vs. Tortuous

What’s the difference between torturous and tortuous?

Torturous is used to describe things that are painful or that cause suffering, as if they were a form of torture. Tortuous means winding or full of twists and turns, as in a tortuous path, but it can also be used in a more figurative way to mean indirect, convoluted, or even devious.

Both words are adjectives, and their spellings are separated by only one letter—making their pronunciations very similar. Making things even more confusing is that there are some situations in which it could make sense to use either word. For example, a piece of writing that’s extremely hard to follow because of how unorganized it is could be described as both tortuous (because it’s so meandering) and torturous (because it’s like torture to read it).

The best way to remember the difference is that torturous has a second r in it, just like its base word, torture. If you want to use the word tortuous in a piece of writing and you’re worried it might be confusing, you might be right! Luckily, there are plenty of alternative words that can be used in the same way, depending on what you mean, such as winding, meandering, circuitous, indirect, and convoluted.

Here’s an example of torturous and tortuous used correctly in the same sentence.

Example: Trying to follow the tortuous arguments in the meandering paper was torturous. 

Want to learn more? Read the full breakdown of the difference between torturous and tortuous.

Quiz yourself on torturous vs. tortuous!

Should torturous or tortuous be used in the following sentence?

The _____ switchback trail snaked up and down the mountainside.




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