3 entries found for torpedo.
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Main Entry: 1tor·pe·do
Inflected Form(s): plural -does
Etymology: from Latin torpedo, literally "numbness," from torpre "to be numb" --related to TORPID 1: a thin cylindrical self-propelled submarine weapon 2: a small firework that explodes when thrown against a hard object Word History The Latin verb torpre, meaning "to be numb," gave rise to the noun torpedo, "numbness." This noun was borrowed into English in the 16th century to refer to a long round fish that gave a numbing electric shock to anyone who touched it. This fish was also called an electric ray, a crampfish, or a numbfish. In the early 19th century, the American inventor Robert Fulton developed a floating device that exploded when it touched a ship. He called this device a torpedo because it reminded him of the electric ray. Since then the torpedo has been modernized and is fired at its target. Although it still looks somewhat like the fish, its effects can certainly be more than numbing.