n. pl. tor·pe·does
1. A cigar-shaped, self-propelled underwater projectile launched from a submarine, aircraft, or ship and designed to detonate on contact with or in the vicinity of a target.
2. Any of various submarine explosive devices, especially a submarine mine.
3. A small explosive placed on a railroad track that is fired by the weight of the train to sound a warning of a hazard ahead.
4. An explosive fired in an oil or gas well to begin or increase the flow.
5. A small firework consisting of gravel wrapped in tissue paper with a percussion cap that explodes when thrown against a hard surface.
6. See electric ray.
7. Slang A professional assassin or thug.
8. Chiefly New Jersey See submarine sandwich.
tr.v. tor·pe·doed, tor·pe·do·ing, tor·pe·does
1. To attack, strike, or sink with a torpedo.
2. To destroy decisively; wreck: torpedo efforts at reform.
[Latin torpēdō, numbness, electric ray, from torpēre, to be stiff; see ster-1 in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.