Don't torture yourself trying to remember the difference between tortuous and torturous. Tortuous describes something like the long and winding road. But torturous is what a room full of masochists might say: "Torture us!" It describes something painful, like a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

Tortuous, pronounced "TOR-choo-us," describes something that has many twists and turns, like a zigzagging road or the plot of a soap opera. Here are some examples from the news,

Path to peace in Middle East still tortuous as ever. (Morning Star)

Let us walk with you down the tortuous road of this first year in college. (North by Northwestern)

Fortunately, not all technology is on the side of the companies that hide behind tortuous voicemail systems. (CNN Money)

Add another "r" for torturous, pronounced "TOR-cher-us," used to identify something that somehow involves extreme pain or suffering (torture):

Chance and Guererro stage a daring rescue of Winston from the hands of his torturous kidnappers. (TV Guide)

For the next two torturous hours, the Scarborough man was bound, beaten, robbed and left to wonder whether his wife, children and tenants were dead or alive. (

He had survived homelessness, hunger and depression in a torturous journey from the Guatemalan highlands. (Washington Post)

Tortuous is descriptive, not judgmental – driving on a road that's so long and crooked it makes you dizzy is tortuous, but you might like it. Torturous is definitely judgmental. If your friend in the passenger seat is white knuckled and scared, she'd say the ride was torturous.