Tortuous or Torturous?

by Craig Shrives

What Is the Difference between "Tortuous" and "Torturous"?

"Tortuous" and "torturous" are easy to confuse because they look so similar. This is no coincidence. "Tortuous" and "torturous" share the same Late Latin root tortura (a twisting, writhing).
  • "Tortuous" means "with many twists and turns," like a country road or the plot of a book. For example:
    • It was difficult to drive on the tortuous road.
  • "Torturous" means "involving or causing torture, pain, or suffering." For example:
    • The 14-hour flight to Sydney was torturous.
Click to hear how "tortuous" and "torturous" are pronounced:

tortuous or torturous?

Tortuous

The adjective "tortuous" describes something with repeated twists or turns.

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

Torturous

The adjective "torturous" describes something that involves suffering or pain.

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

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See Also

adverse or averse? affect or effect? appraise or apprise? avenge or revenge? bare or bear? complement or compliment? dependant or dependent? discreet or discrete? disinterested or uninterested? e.g. or i.e.? envy or jealousy? imply or infer? its or it's? material or materiel? poisonous or venomous? practice or practise? principal or principle? tenant or tenet? who's or whose? What are adjectives? List of easily confused words

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