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

  • 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.
  • intransitive v. To return an argument or a charge; to make a severe reply.
  • 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.

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.
  • In metallurgy, to separate by means of a retort, as gold from an amalgam.
  • 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.

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


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

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.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Latin retorquere 'to be forced to twist back'; re- + -tort



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

    June 18, 2009