Tortuous vs. Torturous

How to use the adjectives "tortuous" and "torturous" correctly

This is an entry on my list of Common Errors in English Usage. Visit the main page for direct links to additional entries.

Tortuous (without the second r) means “winding, tricky, crooked, convoluted”:

tortuous roads caused the dog to become carsick and vomit on my shoes (true story)

tortuous legal jargon

tortuous plot

Torturous (from the noun and verb torture) means “painful” or “slow and difficult, labored”:

torturous feelings of guilt

tortuous English class¹

the rusty old car’s torturous climb up the steep hill

¹ Thanks to former student Tracy for this witty example.

Related Resources

Common Errors in English Usage: Errors in diction and idiom commonly made by native speakers of English

List of Common Errors in English Usage (PDF): Printable version of the complete list

Common Grammar Errors: A list of common errors in grammar (topics like subject-verb agreement and parallelism) as distinct from usage

List of Common Errors in English Usage: PDF version

© 2006, 2008, and 2019 C. Brantley Collins, Jr.