Weekly Word – Tortuous

Weekly Word is a weekly post intended to illustrate the meaning and use of a single word. The chosen word will begin with a different letter each week, as Louise (my daughter) and I work our way through the alphabet.

Louise posts on her website:

An Enchanted Place

This week’s word begins with the letter  T:

Part of Speech:



1.  Having, or marked by, repeated turns or bends; winding or twisting.

2.  Not straightforward, or morally crooked – as in proceedings, methods, or policy; highly involved; lengthy and /or complex; deceitful; devious

Note: The word, tortuous is not to be confused with torturous. The latter is based on the word torture  which is painful and characterised by suffering.


tor-tu-ous   (tôr′cho͞o-əs)

Audio Link:


Related Word Forms:

tortuously (adverb)

tortuousness (noun)


1.  winding   meandering   meandrous   wandering   twisted   twisting   twisty   bent   zigzag   sinuous   curved    crooked   serpentine   snaky   labyrinthine   mazy   circuitous   anfractious    indirect  roundabout   convoluted   complicated   flexuous    involute

2.   convoluted    involved   misleading   deceptive   deceitful   ambiguous   tricky   devious


Straight   straightforward   direct   linear   simple   easy   uncomplicated   uninvolved untwisted   rectilinear   undeviating   open   reliable   upright   honest

Word Origin:

Late Middle English (1350–1400) via Old French, from the Latin tortuosus from tortus meaning ‘twisting’ or ‘a twist’, from the Latin torquere ‘to twist’.

Use the Word:

1.  The road through the mountains wound tortuously down to the beach, its serpentine form graceful and smooth against the steep and craggy terrain.  Yet the beauty of the scene became somewhat marred as the inexperienced driver negotiated each sharp hairpin bend with evident unease.

2.  A collective sigh of relief filled the room as the conference drew to a close. After  over three hours of poorly delivered speeches, most of which were a mix of ambiguity and tortuousness, no one in the audience was inclined to hide their displeasure from the speakers as they rose to leave.

 3.  Beneath the warm sun of the summer, when the corkscrew willow is in leaf, the line of each tortuous branch disappears from sight in pursuit of finding some cool place to rest behind the parasol of green…

But in winter all is laid bare and the tortuous route of each twisting, dragon’s claw can be clearly seen, notably when snowflakes break their fall on the tree’s labyrinthine form.


Image  from Shutterstock

10 thoughts on “Weekly Word – Tortuous

    1. I enjoy doing these posts, too, Jill, but they get few views nowadays. I only have myself to blame, I know. I only came back to WP earlier this year, after 3 years of being awol! I’ve lost touch with so many of my old followers and due to my writing commitments I haven’t the time to seek them all out. Right… moan over. Thank you for liking my post. I think adding the pronunciation is important, especially for people to whom English is a second language. Not all words are pronounced as we would expect from the spelling.

      1. Thank you, Kellie. As you see, I’ve gone awol yet again as I’m in the middle of writing my next book. I hope to find time to come back to my blog very soon. Lou and I always link to each other’s posts when we do our Weekly Word. 😀

    1. I think it is, Arv. I do like the sound of it, though, and the way it can be used in different ways. We have a corkscrew willow in our garden, but we prefer one of its other names, which is dragon’s claw willow. Still other people simply call it a wiggly willow.

  1. That first picture reminded me of a tortuous drive that I experienced some years ago, together with my mother. We drove from Berlin to Traben-Trarbach, located on the Mosel river, and encountered several overturned lorries on the way (I don’t think there were any wounded just a lot of oranges and other items on the highway). Naturally, that meant a huge delay. We arrived at the Mosel valley in the dark, and I had to negotiate the serpentines. Obviously, there were no street lamps. It was like driving blind. Somehow, I managed to get us down the mountainside without driving into the ‘ditch’. That was definitely down to luck.

  2. Good one – and good examples, Millie! I’ll admit to confusing torturous and tortuous sometimes (as tortuous roads and proceedings are also often torturous), so this is a good reminder of the distinction.

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