Definition of torpedo in US English:



  • 1A cigar-shaped self-propelled underwater missile designed to be fired from a ship or submarine or dropped into the water from an aircraft and to explode on reaching a target.

    • ‘Carrying submarine bombs, torpedoes and Harpoon missiles, it can offer outstanding surface and submarine detection equipment, and it has more applications than a submarine.’
    • ‘There are homing rockets, underwater torpedoes, water mines and cannon shells plus a few others to hunt down enemy boats.’
    • ‘The uncloaked ships fired off their torpedoes and took out a portion of the enemy fleet.’
    • ‘There had been no time to think as Matt and Jerry drove toward the harbor because the closer they got they saw the sky filled with zeros as they flew in low over the ships and dropped their torpedoes.’
    • ‘The ship has ten torpedo tubes for 20 Vodopad-NK anti-submarine missiles or torpedoes.’
    • ‘The orbital missile silos started as well, firing volleys of pirion torpedoes at the ships.’
    • ‘We also do not think there is anything wrong with ‘unrestricted’ submarine warfare - meaning a submarine firing its torpedoes without warning.’
    • ‘Two torpedo tubes are designed for firing remote-controlled torpedoes with a very high accuracy.’
    • ‘She says that most divers in the South know the wreck of HMS Hood, the battleship which was sunk in 1914 across the south ship channel of Portland Harbour to stop U-boats firing torpedoes at ships inside.’
    • ‘The submarine has the capacity to carry 14 missiles and torpedoes in a mixed load.’
    • ‘This is guided to the submarine position where it drops a parachute-retarded torpedo, or depth charge, from a height of 400 feet.’
    • ‘Osyss fired another volley of torpedoes at the Hybrid ship.’
    • ‘It's about 450 feet long, longer than other attack boats due to a hull extension, and it's designed to carry torpedoes and cruise missiles.’
    • ‘The maximum weapons payload is 1,781 kg and weapon options include missiles, torpedoes, rockets and bombs.’
    • ‘As the torpedo reaches the closest distance to the target, a magnetic proximity fuse and an impact fuse detonates the warhead.’
    • ‘U.S. submarines fired 14,748 torpedoes, sinking 214 warships and 1,178 merchant vessels.’
    • ‘By understanding how dolphins move in the water, perhaps they could improve torpedo, ship and submarine designs.’
    • ‘All aircraft dropped their bombs or torpedoes over the target, but on the return leg Beaufort A9-217 lost contact with the rest of the squadron and failed to return.’
    • ‘The ADF currently uses Mk46 Mod 1 Phase 11 and Mk 46 Mod 5a torpedoes from ships and aircraft.’
    • ‘The submarine can carry up to 18 missiles or torpedoes.’
    1. 1.1US A firework that explodes on impact with a hard surface.
      • ‘He accentuates his taps with an occasional torpedo, little explosive pellets that detonate on contact, which were a lot of fun before life got so safe and sane.’
    2. 1.2US A signal placed on a railroad track, exploding as the train passes over it.
    3. 1.3informal
      another term for submarine (sense 2 of the noun)
    4. 1.4informal A gangster hired to commit a murder or other violent act.
    5. 1.5 An explosive device lowered into oil wells to clear obstructions.
  • 2An electric ray.

    • ‘Another hot star here is a resident baby torpedo ray a mere 7 ‘long.’’
    • ‘Those closest to the lagoon entrance offer the best chance of finding a resting leopard shark or torpedo ray, especially early in the morning.’
    • ‘Properties in common with electricity of the torpedo and other animals of this class are chiefly these: -’


[with object]
  • 1Attack or sink (a ship) with a torpedo or torpedoes.

    • ‘No loaded American troop transports were sunk en route to Europe, although several empty vessels were torpedoed while returning to the United States.’
    • ‘Unfortunately, the ship was torpedoed while still in the Baltic Sea and sank.’
    • ‘The ship that he was supposed to be on was torpedoed and sunk with the loss of all hands and kit.’
    • ‘Leading Aircraftsman Ernie Mortimer was left clinging to a piece of debris in the dark for six hours after his prison ship was torpedoed.’
    • ‘The ship was torpedoed at about 0530 hours on September 12.’
    • ‘He had been down in the engine room when his ship was torpedoed and was only just able to get out in time.’
    • ‘His ship was torpedoed and he was seriously wounded.’
    • ‘The story told about a World War II German submarine that was doomed to torpedo the same ship over and over again and, in doing so, driving the submarine captain mad.’
    • ‘As for battle, ‘I was in the water twice,’ he would sometimes say, meaning that two of the ships he'd been on had been torpedoed or bombed and sunk.’
    • ‘This is a unique wreck in that the ship was originally torpedoed by U - 70, then taken in tow before breaking loose and striking Lee Ore.’
    • ‘As bad luck would have it, nine German U-boats stumbled across the manoeuvres and torpedoed the ships, sinking two ships and damaging a third.’
    • ‘Ken and Arthur were ‘boy seamen’ aged 16 and 17 years old when the ship was torpedoed.’
    • ‘The ship was torpedoed off County Donegal and the book describes the heroic and partly successful rescue attempts.’
    • ‘‘My dad died when his ship was torpedoed in the war when I was five,’ says Baker.’
    • ‘Tragically, on Christmas Eve, as elements of the division crossed the English Channel on board the troop ship Leopoldville, a German submarine torpedoed the ship.’
    • ‘The Alcione C, a 54m Italian supply ship torpedoed by the Allies in 1943, stands upright on a 34m seabed.’
    • ‘Byron was killed in the second world war aged only 35, lost when his ship was torpedoed by a German U-boat off Cape Wrath.’
    • ‘The pensioner was honoured with the Distinguished Service Medal in 1943 from King George VI after his ship was torpedoed in the Mediterranean.’
    • ‘Many Allied ships were torpedoed during World War 2 by the dreaded German U-Boats, which actively patrolled up and down the Firth of Forth.’
    • ‘The ashes of a woman have been placed inside the wreck of a Royal Navy ship alongside those of her long-dead hero husband who died when the ship was torpedoed by a German U-boat.’
    shell, pound, blitz, strafe, pepper, fire at, fire on, bomb
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    1. 1.1 Destroy or ruin (a plan or project)
      ‘fighting between the militias torpedoed peace talks’
      • ‘We haven't even struck a jury yet, and now three of the defense strategies have been torpedoed.’
      • ‘However, overly strong, untimely or uninformed opinions and input that override a well thought-out process can torpedo the best plans for no reason.’
      • ‘Success at politics seldom depends entirely upon good intentions and is often torpedoed with a single strike by matters as trivial as boyhood pranks or otherwise pardonable youthful indiscretions.’
      • ‘The plans were passed by members after a marathon eight-hour debate - but campaigners are now joining forces in an attempt to torpedo the scheme.’
      • ‘Critics have charged that NASA actively torpedoed those proposals.’
      • ‘What could torpedo these plans is if tourists as a whole cancel their winter holidays out of safety concerns or if the airlines cut capacity on transcontinental routes.’
      • ‘His first thought was that Craig's initiative would torpedo the proposal.’
      • ‘Cmgi last year torpedoed the proposed takeover of Lycos by USA Networks.’
      • ‘It also adds to the anger following last year's Government decision to torpedo plans for a massive marina, following a public inquiry.’
      • ‘It might have just torpedoed the project entirely - though the Mozilla project has attracted a legion of developers.’
      • ‘Bloomington is a small town, and any whiff of scandal would torpedo the project.’
      • ‘There are a myriad of reasons why Congress may torpedo this plan.’
      • ‘He voted in favour of the pull-out in the Cabinet, but tried to torpedo the plan in parliament.’
      • ‘General de Gaulle who preferred a solid continental construction to a loose free trade association finally torpedoed the British initiative.’
      • ‘Since any decision to change the executive director must be made unanimously by the executive board, he or she can easily torpedo proposed changes.’
      • ‘Nevertheless, Kutcher isn't so bad that he torpedoes the entire project.’
      • ‘Fears over traffic congestion could torpedo plans to make a Selby transport depot the hub of a nationwide distribution network.’
      • ‘He voted in favor of it in the Cabinet but also tried to torpedo the plan in parliamentary maneuvers.’
      • ‘The best-laid program planning can be torpedoed or strengthened by the staff that plan and implement it.’
      destroy, wreck, ruin, shatter, dash, crush, devastate, demolish, blast, blight, wipe out, overturn, scotch
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Early 16th century (in torpedo (sense 2 of the noun)): from Latin, literally ‘stiffness, numbness’, by extension ‘electric ray’ (which gives a shock causing numbness), from torpere ‘be numb or sluggish’. torpedo (sense 1 of the noun) dates from the late 18th century and first described a timed explosive device for detonation under water.