Definition of torture in English:



  • 1[mass noun] The action or practice of inflicting severe pain on someone as a punishment or in order to force them to do or say something.

    ‘the torture of political prisoners’
    ‘confessions extracted under torture’
    [as modifier] ‘a torture chamber’
    • ‘Some prison facilities… are notorious for the cruel and prolonged acts of torture inflicted upon political opponents of the Government.’
    • ‘The event simply has had no closure, partly because for 40 years mention of it was forbidden, on pain of torture and jail.’
    • ‘The Government rarely punished persons responsible for torture or unlawful deaths.’
    • ‘But there was no tribunal or court to punish international crimes of torture.’
    • ‘Members of the security forces torture, beat and otherwise abuse prisoners and detainees.’
    • ‘Its officers wrote out false confessions and used torture to force suspects to sign them.’
    • ‘Similarly, Article 1 of the 1984 Convention on Torture prohibits torture when it is among other things intentionally inflicted.’
    • ‘The insurgency has led police to abuse detainees, using torture as punishment or to extract confessions, the report said.’
    • ‘When you get arrested, you are forced by beatings, torture and threats to confess to crimes you didn't commit.’
    • ‘The lengthy detention of scores of people without trial as well as hundreds of cases of torture and forced confessions on sedition charges could also be investigated.’
    • ‘There have been reports that security forces torture persons in ‘ghost houses’.’
    • ‘A practice of torture by police or prison authorities, either in the form of political persecution or in the context of Art 3 of the Convention, is attributable to the State.’
    • ‘Arbitrary arrest, police beatings, torture to extract confession, the persecution of defence lawyers, and the intimidation of witnesses are widespread.’
    • ‘But this can only be done at the expense of human rights, as can be seen in the systematic torture inflicted on political detainees.’
    • ‘The Attorney-General says any confession extracted using torture would not be admissible in an Australian court.’
    • ‘In that memo, it was asserted that inflicting severe pain constituted torture only if the perpetrator knowingly acted for the express and sole purpose of causing agony.’
    • ‘The eradication of the practice of torture was one of the major challenges undertaken by the United Nations.’
    • ‘The writer insists he knew nothing about the unjust imprisonment and torture practiced by the Party.’
    • ‘One of the issues in the case is whether what was described by him was severe enough to amount to persecution or torture.’
    • ‘Other punishment practices include torture, often in front of family members, and execution.’
    infliction of pain, abuse, torment
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1Great physical or mental suffering.
      ‘the torture I've gone through because of loving you so’
      • ‘She looked over to who was suffering the horrible torture.’
      • ‘A party and a cause also for which countless brave men and women have sacrificed so much, including the hundreds who have laid down their lives and many more who suffered torture and abuse.’
      • ‘And, if he is particularly unlucky, he will end up with both the physical pain and the mental torture.’
      • ‘Even during the last mile I felt I had a lot more in me, though I can only imagine the pain and the mental torture of doing the whole thing again.’
      • ‘The following is my testimony of the greater humiliation and torture suffered by my fellow inmates.’
      • ‘It also increases the incidence of false confessions by placing the detainee in a situation where he or she may experience physical or mental torture, or serious ill-treatment.’
      • ‘The thread that runs through all of them is not just the crazed demand for a dowry by the victim's husband and his family, but the lack of support she got from her own parents as she suffered torture in silence.’
      • ‘This tiny fraction of those who suffer torture still numbers many thousands each year.’
      • ‘They are going through mental and physical torture.’
      • ‘Imagine being in his situation for a second, then imagine it being for a week that he has been subjected to this ordeal, imagine the mental torture he is suffering at the moment.’
      • ‘But this rather ignores the deterioration of law and order and stories of torture and beatings suffered by those that dared to protest during matches.’
      • ‘Nothing short of physical torture and mental agony awaits, and it's all self-inflicted.’
      • ‘‘We see asylum seekers every day who tell us the most harrowing tales of the mental and physical torture and trauma they've suffered,’ she said.’
      • ‘Red Lights concerns an arguing couple who split up during a road trip, which leads to a horrific 24 hours wherein the alcoholic protagonist suffers all kinds of torture trying to get back to his wife.’
      • ‘Along with the other organisers he was sent to Drapchi where he suffered physical and mental torture.’
      • ‘As to the atheous Anglicans, he calls on God to pitch them into the darkest, deepest gulf of Hell to suffer torture eternally.’
      • ‘I hope they care deeply about the fact that when we find suffering and torture and mass graves, we weep for the citizens that are being brutalized by tyrants.’
      • ‘Many people who have had to flee their homelands will have suffered physical or mental torture.’
      • ‘Every group in this country has suffered torture at police hands.’
      • ‘She filed a case of harassment under section 498A after suffering severe mental torture.’
      torment, agony, suffering, pain
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2A cause of great physical or mental suffering.
      ‘dances were absolute torture because I was so small’
      ordeal, horror, torment, trial
      View synonyms


  • 1 Inflict severe pain on.

    ‘most of the victims had been brutally tortured’
    • ‘The IHD state that there is always a high possibility that a person will be tortured in police custody.’
    • ‘The Appellant states that he was not asked much about how he was tortured.’
    • ‘If we can help and inspire other people to see that you don't have to torture people, you don't have to have oppressive regimes.’
    • ‘Some of them have been tortured or given heavy prison sentences for this offence alone.’
    • ‘Imprisoning and torturing people for that is resurrecting the ‘crime’ of lese majeste.’
    • ‘She poses the question: ‘If everyone could feel everyone else's pain who would torture?’’
    • ‘We know that they have arrested everyone they take to the hospital, taken people to jail and tortured them.’
    • ‘Sexually molesting children or torturing political prisoners is not wrong because some Bible passage says so.’
    • ‘They are torturing people who are already suffering desperately.’
    • ‘The fight against those who torture animals in the name of science has moved up a step and we must be ready to take our struggle forward.’
    • ‘He believed that he would be imprisoned, tortured or possibly executed.’
    • ‘Her husband was arrested and detained for approximately three months during which period he was tortured.’
    • ‘The regime routinely jails dissidents, has tortured them, and bans all opposition.’
    • ‘I was lucky: days later the regime began imprisoning and torturing journalists for the same offence I'd committed.’
    • ‘They had both suffered gunshot and stab wounds and appeared to have been tortured.’
    • ‘If the history was one of beating up someone, or tormenting or torturing someone, that is always relevant leading up to the act.’
    • ‘There are treaty obligations, Clement replied, and there is the threat of court martial for people in the military who torture enemies contrary to the law.’
    • ‘He is reported to have been physically and mentally tortured and has not been heard of since May.’
    • ‘He has killed hundreds of thousands of people and tortured and oppressed countless others.’
    • ‘I've no doubt you will be the size of a toothpick by the time the camera starts rolling, but you will have had to brutally torture yourself to do it.’
    inflict pain on, inflict suffering on
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1Cause great mental suffering to.
      ‘he was tortured by grief’
      • ‘He was taking his sweet time, torturing her mentally with the thought of what was going to happen.’
      • ‘He left me alive to torture me, to keep his haunting words in my mind.’
      • ‘He is a man on the edge of a mental abyss, a soul tortured by events in his past he dare not confront when sober.’
      • ‘I'm used to holding hearings where people cry, families who are at their wits' end, people whose obsessional behaviour tortures them all day long, and people for whom really the only alternative is suicide.’
      • ‘He can wheedle people so easily - play tricks with their minds, torture them emotionally, until they give in to despair.’
      • ‘Further back there were booths where one could be alone and torture the mind with alcohol.’
      • ‘Had she been so jumpy and frightened in the empty black school that her mind invented the noise as a way to torture her even more?’
      • ‘I had my car back, so there wouldn't be any long, silent, bus rides to torture my mind with.’
      • ‘If our fear is vain, it is certain that fear itself is evil, and that the heart is groundlessly disturbed and tortured.’
      • ‘The site was too much to take in, yet a firm imprint of what was before me was planted firmly into my mind, torturing me for as long as I live.’
      • ‘And instead I had to go to balls and other stupid events Czar Nikolai makes up to mentally torture us.’
      • ‘Harry is being mentally tortured and starved by his muggle family during the summer holidays.’
      • ‘She didn't know why, but she wanted Haley to take her in his arms and heal the pain and send away the agony and torture she internally suffered.’
      • ‘It probed around his mind, taunting it, torturing it, but never letting on who or what it might be.’
      • ‘Tear down the walls of self-consciousness in your mind, rip to shreds all the self-defeating messages you torture yourself with all the time.’
      • ‘The picture remains to this day vivid in my mind, as if it lingers there only to torture me.’
      • ‘So why do we still torture ourselves with constant obsessing about weight and appearance and dress sizes?’
      • ‘She wondered for how long this sound would continue to torture and haunt her mind: she was not mad, but she believed that she soon would be.’
      • ‘Here in the dark, they torture me, these silent shrill voices echoing in my mind, will they haunt me forever?’
      • ‘If you seek pleasure with disregard for others you're going down a dark, lonely, depressing slide into mental torture a place where you wish you weren't born.’
      torment, afflict, harrow, plague, distress, agonize, cause agony to, cause suffering to, inflict anguish on
      View synonyms


Late Middle English (in the sense ‘distortion, twisting’, or a physical disorder characterized by this): via French from late Latin tortura twisting, torment, from Latin torquere to twist.