Grammar Monster
Grammar Monster

Tortuous or Torturous?

The Quick Answer
What is the difference between tortuous and torturous?

Tortuous is used to describe something with many twists and turns, like a country road or the plot of a book.
  • It was difficult to drive on the tortuous road.
Torturous describes something that involves pain or suffering.
  • The 14-hour flight to Sydney was torturous.


The adjective tortuous describes something with repeated twists or turns.

  • In cities like Athens, poor houses lined narrow and tortuous streets in spite of luxurious public buildings. (Stephen Gardiner)
  • The path to the referendum promises to be tortuous. (New York Times)


The adjective torturous describes something that involves suffering or pain.

  • Jealousy would be far less torturous if we understood that love is a passion entirely unrelated to our merits. (Paul Eldridge)
  • Life's experiences, whether they be torturous or excruciatingly wonderful, season you somehow and you learn from them. (Mel Gibson)
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