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Borrowed from Anglo-Norman, from Old French tortuos, from Latin tortuōsus, from tortus (a twisting, winding).



tortuous (comparative more tortuous, superlative most tortuous)

  1. (often figuratively) Twisted; having many turns; convoluted.
    • 2007 October 6, “Slogging on the Home Front”, editorial in The New York Times,
      It still takes almost half a year for the average veteran’s claim for disability benefits to be decided in a tortuous process that can involve four separate hearings.
    • Macaulay
      The badger made his dark and tortuous hole on the side of every hill where the copsewood grew thick.
  2. (astrology) Oblique; applied to the six signs of the zodiac (from Capricorn to Gemini) that ascend most rapidly and obliquely.
    • Skeat
      Infortunate ascendent tortuous.
  3. (obsolete) Injurious; tortious.

Usage notes[edit]

  • This term has strongly negative connotations, perhaps transferred from the similar-sounding adjective torturous.
  • Not to be confused with the legal term tortious.

Related terms[edit]