1. Having or marked by repeated turns or bends; winding or twisting: a tortuous road through the mountains.
2. Not straightforward; circuitous; devious.
--The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000.
2. Repeatedly curving in alternate directions: anfractuous, flexuous, meandrous, serpentine, sinuous, snaky, winding.
--Roget’s II: The New Thesaurus, Third Edition. Houghton Mifflin.
THE WORD IN USE:
ATTRIBUTION: President GERALD R. FORD (1913-2007), address to a joint session of Congress, August 12, 1974:
"I once told you that I am not a saint, and I hope never to see the day that I cannot admit having made a mistake. So I will close with another confession. Frequently, along the tortuous road of recent months from this chamber to the President’s House, I protested that I was my own man. Now I realize that I was wrong. I am your man, for it was your carefully weighed confirmation that changed my occupation. The truth is I am the people’s man, for you acted in their name, and I accepted and began my new and solemn trust with a promise to serve all the people and do the best that I can for America."
—Public Papers of thePresidents of the United States: Gerald Rudolph Ford (1913– ), 1974, p. 13.
—Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations. 1989.
USAGE ALERT FROM THE AMERICAN BOOK OF ENGLISH USAGE:
"Do you recall that tortuous mountain path that was so torturous to your feet? Although tortuous and torturous both come from the Latin word torquere, “to twist,” their primary meanings are distinct. Tortuous means “twisting,” as in a tortuous road, or by extension “complex” or “devious,” as in tortuous bureaucratic procedures or a tortuous explanation. Torturous [containing a "r" in the second syllable: tortortorous] refers primarily to torture and the pain associated with it."
—The American Heritage Book of English Usage. New York:Houghton Mifflin, 1996.
BLOGGIN' JOHN ADDS:
People unaware of the difference between the similar-sounding tortuous and torturous tend to mistake meaning in sentences such as this one:
"Summit Ridge Drive is a short but tortuous road that takes one up, atop, and down Quaker Hill."
The drive on Summit Ridge Drive is not torturous--a test of pain. It is merely tortuous, a sinuous one-mile passage that twists through six turns (including two U's) that direct the traveller to face six points around the compass: SW, W, NE, a U-turn to S, SE, another U-turn to NE, and a final stretch to the North.
I hope this page has not proven to be a torturous read.