from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • transitive v. To reply, especially to answer in a quick, caustic, or witty manner. See Synonyms at answer.
  • transitive v. To present a counterargument to.
  • transitive v. To return in kind; pay back.
  • intransitive v. To make a reply, especially a quick, caustic, or witty one.
  • intransitive v. To present a counterargument.
  • intransitive v. To return like for like; retaliate.
  • n. A quick incisive reply, especially one that turns the first speaker's words to his or her own disadvantage.
  • n. The act or an instance of retorting.
  • n. A closed laboratory vessel with an outlet tube, used for distillation, sublimation, or decomposition by heat.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A sharp or witty reply, or one which turns an argument against its originator; a comeback.
  • n. A flask with a rounded base and a long neck that is bent down and tapered, used to heat a liquid for distillation.
  • n. A container in which material is subjected to high temperatures as part of an industrial manufacturing process, especially during the smelting and forging of metal.
  • v. To say something sharp or witty in answer to a remark or accusation.
  • v. To make a remark which reverses an argument upon its originator.
  • v. To heat in a retort.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • transitive v. To bend or curve back.
  • transitive v. To throw back; to reverberate; to reflect.
  • transitive v. To return, as an argument, accusation, censure, or incivility.
  • intransitive v. To return an argument or a charge; to make a severe reply.
  • n. The return of, or reply to, an argument, charge, censure, incivility, taunt, or witticism; a quick and witty or severe response.
  • n. A vessel in which substances are subjected to distillation or decomposition by heat. It is made of different forms and materials for different uses, as a bulb of glass with a curved beak to enter a receiver for general chemical operations, or a cylinder or semicylinder of cast iron for the manufacture of gas in gas works.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To twist back; bend back by twisting or curving; turn back.
  • To throw back; specifically, to reflect.
  • To cast back; reject; refuse to accept or grant.
  • To return; turn back or repel, as an argument, accusation, manner of treatment, etc., upon the originator; retaliate: rarely applied to the return of kindness or civility.
  • To reply resentfully.
  • To curve, twist, or coil back.
  • To retaliate; turn back an argument, accusation, or manner of treatment upon the originator; especially, to make a resentful reply; respond in a spirit of retaliation.
  • To return.
  • n. The act of retorting; the repelling of an argument, accusation, or incivility; hence, that which is retorted; a retaliatory act or remark; especially, a sharp or witty rejoinder; a repartee.
  • n. Synonyms See repartee.
  • n. In chem. and the arts, a vessel of glass, earthenware, metal, etc., employed for the purpose of distilling or effecting decomposition by the aid of heat.
  • In metallurgy, to separate by means of a retort, as gold from an amalgam.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a quick reply to a question or remark (especially a witty or critical one)
  • v. answer back
  • n. a vessel where substances are distilled or decomposed by heat


Latin retorquēre, retort-, to bend back, retort : re-, re- + torquēre, to bend, twist.
French retorte, from Medieval Latin retorta, from feminine of Latin retortus, past participle of retorquēre, to bend back; see retort.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Latin retorquere 'to be forced to twist back'; re- + -tort (Wiktionary)



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  • Why don't you include an image of a retort?

    June 18, 2009