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tortious, tortuous, torturous - vocabulary

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  Ed Good  —  Grammar Tips
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Tortious: a legal word that refers to an act that gives ground for a lawsuit based on tort law.

Note: The words torturous and tortuous come from the same Latin root “torquere,” which means “to twist.” But their meanings today are distinct.

Torturous: related to the word torture, which means “to inflict pain.” In rare cases, it also means “twisted.”

Tortuous: “winding,” “twisting,” or sometimes “complex.”

Torturous refers specifically to what involves or causes pain or suffering: prisoners working in the torturous heat; torturous memories of past injustice. Some speakers and writers use torturous for tortuous, especially in the senses “twisting, winding” and “convoluted”: a torturous road; torturous descriptions. Others, however, keep the two adjectives (and their corresponding adverbs) separate in all senses: a tortuous (twisting) road; tortuous (convoluted) descriptions; torturous (painful) treatments.

Example: Without power steering, the tortuous road was torturous to drive in the old truck, and the injured bystanders claimed that maintaining the truck in a dilapidated condition constituted a tortious act.

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