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What is a common synonym of tortuosity or antonym of straightness, as in the following:

Country roads typically have greater ____ than motorways.

Tortuosity or tortuousness is technically correct but rather uncommon. Is there a more suitable term in less formal/technical speech, preferably a short word too?

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Have you loked in a thesaurus for antonyms of 'straight'? How about 'crooked'? (though one normally doesn't refer to streets as crooked). Don't arbitrarily limit yourself to single words. 'Has more of turns' or 'more curves', might work. – Mitch May 6 '12 at 20:17
@Mitch Country roads is 'as in', not all. – Kris May 6 '12 at 20:35
@Kris: I've read this question and answers and comments over and over and, though your words seem relavent here, I can't figure out what you mean. – Mitch May 7 '12 at 2:00
The example has a very awkward construction, at least to me... – deutschZuid May 7 '12 at 3:26
@Mitch 'roads' is just an example. The answer should be general enough to be useful in any similar sentence. – Kris May 7 '12 at 5:21
up vote 0 down vote accepted
  • Country roads typically have more curves than interstate highways.
  • Country roads are typically curvier than interstate highways.
  • Country roads typically have more curviness than interstate highways.

I assume by “motorway”, you mean an M-class roadway in the UK or a US interstate highway. It’s a dual carriageway / divided highway with at least two lanes each direction and sometimes more, and which has only limited on-off access ramps and no stop-and-go lights. The speed limit in the US is usually between 55–75 mph, although in one curvy place on I-70 in Glenwood Springs, Colorado it is only 45 mph where there is a warning sign that “curves tighten”. Also, I believe Texas now has it up to 80 or 85 mph. In the overpopulated eastern portion of the country, 55 is usually all you get.

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Thanks, tchrist, but I'd like a word to fill the blank, not to reword the sentence. Thanks, too, for explaining "motorway" for the benefit of other readers. – Gnubie May 6 '12 at 19:45
@Gnubie I think “curvy” is the best word. Why do you need a noun again, once that fits that exact blank? Is this a crossword puzzle? – tchrist May 6 '12 at 20:02
Truth is, I wish to pick a variable name in a computer program to describe this property, and variable names are supposedly nouns. – Gnubie May 6 '12 at 20:20
@Gnubie It would probably have helped to explain the context in the question! Curviness seems to fit admirably. – Andrew Leach May 7 '12 at 1:08
Thanks, everyone, for answers. Of the nouns you've suggested, I think "curviness" is the simplest synonym proposed. I accept this answer because of Andrew's comment. – Gnubie May 7 '12 at 11:31

Country roads are typically more circuitous than motorways.

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Thanks, Jim, but I'd like a word to fill the blank, not to reword the sentence. – Gnubie May 6 '12 at 19:46
Circuitousness, then, if you insist on your current wording. – J.R. May 7 '12 at 0:19

You might say any of the following:

Country roads often are more winding than motorways.
Country roads often are more sinuous than motorways.
Country roads often are less direct than motorways.
Country roads often are more roundabout than motorways.

Other terms like winding and sinuous are serpentine and twisty.

You can append an -osity or similar suffix on several of these, as done to convert tortuous to tortuosity, but that is on the twisting path to verbosity.

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+1 for winding country road. – Callithumpian May 6 '12 at 19:43
Thanks, jwpat7, but I'd like a word to fill the blank, not to reword the sentence. It seems only "sinuosity" is a valid word; "windingosity", "directosity" or "roundaboutosity" aren't! – Gnubie May 6 '12 at 19:49
I see that like me, you automatically reword into a place that adjectives work. His original “have greater ____ than” is a weird construct if you don’t just put “curves” in there. – tchrist May 6 '12 at 20:05
+1 for sinuous. To Gnubie, sinuousness lets you keep your sentence as is. (You're getting some great answers, you just need to use your imagination, and carry these adjectives just a bit further around the bend). – J.R. May 7 '12 at 0:25

Sinuosity, but it's a strange way to express it. In fact, why do you need to say something so obvious at all?

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Thanks, Barrie. I used that example just to describe the word I wanted; I might instead have wanted to tell someone, "Road A has more traffic, scenery and _____ than road B." However, "sinuosity" is still quite uncommon. Is there a simpler synonym? – Gnubie May 6 '12 at 19:51
Then I'd just say it's more windy. – Barrie England May 6 '12 at 19:54
more windy? Surely that has a different meaning than more winding? – Dilip Sarwate May 6 '12 at 21:44
@DilipSarwate: Of ‘windy’ (pronounced /waɪndɪ:/), the OED says ‘Of a road, path, etc.: that winds about; tortuous, twisting.’ – Barrie England May 7 '12 at 5:55

The word you asked for as antonym for straightness is contortion.

The example sentence would then be "Country roads typically have greater contortion than motorways."

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Based on your refined explanation I believe what your are looking for as essentially a ratio of the line integral distance traveled to the straight-line distance between the two points. A ratio of 1.0 would mean the road was completely straight and direct, while a 2 would mean that the road was was quite circuitous and the distance traveled was twice the straight-line distance.
I'll therefore offer:


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Country roads typically have greater undulance than motorways.


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Undulations are up and down, rather than round and round, aren't they? – Barrie England May 6 '12 at 19:52
@Barrie: Yes, usually. Though I found this Wordnet definition that specifies movement both up and down or side to side. Regardless, the straightness of highways is characterized not only by their lack of curves, but also by their lack of sudden ups and downs. – Callithumpian May 6 '12 at 20:05

Would this work? "Country roads typically have greater bends than motorways."

Definition of bend (singular): curved segment of a road or river or railroad track etc.

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Would this work? Maybe – it depends on what the O.P. is after. For some reason, after reading your sentence, I pictured a particularly sharp bend in a country road, one that I wouldn't find on a freeway. But words like sinuousness or windy conjure images of a long road with several twists and turns. But maybe that's just me. – J.R. May 7 '12 at 7:44

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