Pink spiral

‘Tortuous’ or ‘torturous’?

The two words tortuous and torturous, although similar and derived from the same Latin root, have different core meanings. Tortuous means ‘full of twists and turns’, as in:

The travellers took a tortuous route.

Whereas torturous means ‘involving or causing torture’, as in:

They had a torturous five days of fitness training.

However, in extended senses tortuous is used to mean ‘excessively lengthy and complex’ and hence may become indistinguishable from torturous: something which is tortuous is often also torturous, as in:

It was a tortuous piece of bureaucratic language.

Their way had been tortuous and very difficult.

This overlap in sense means that tortuous is sometimes used interchangeably with torturous.


Back to Usage.

You may also be interested in:

'Among' or 'amongst'?

'Flaunt' or 'flout'?

'Grizzly' or 'grisly'?

See more from Usage