early 15c., "contortion, twisting, distortion; a disorder characterized by contortion," from Old French torture "infliction of great pain; great pain, agony" (12c.), and directly from Late Latin tortura "a twisting, writhing," in Medieval Latin "pain inflicted by judicial or ecclesiastical authority as a means of punishment or persuasion," from stem of Latin torquere "to twist, turn, wind, wring, distort" (from PIE root *terkw- "to twist").
The meaning "infliction of severe bodily pain as a means of punishment or persuasion" in English is from 1550s. The theory behind judicial torture was that a guilty person could be made to confess, but an innocent one could not, by this means. Macaulay writes that it was last inflicted in England in May 1640.
late 13c., "musical instrument, mechanical apparatus for producing musical sounds," from Old French instrument, enstrument "means, device; musical instrument" (14c., earlier estrument, 13c.) and directly from Latin instrumentum "a tool, an implement; means, furtherance; apparatus, furniture; ornament, dress, embellishment; a commission, authorization; a document," from instruere "arrange, prepare, set in order; inform, teach," literally "to build, erect," from in- "on" (from PIE root *en "in") + struere "to pile, build" (from PIE *streu-, extended form of root *stere- "to spread").
The word in other Germanic languages also is from French. In English the meaning "a means, an agency" is from mid-14c. The sense of "hand-tool, implement, utensil, something used to produce a mechanical effect" is from early 14c. "Now usually distinguished from a tool, as being used for more delicate work or for artistic or scientific purposes" [OED]. The legal meaning "written document by which formal expression is given to a legal act" is from early 15c. Formerly also used of body parts or organs with special functions.
In wyfhode I wol vse myn Instrument As frely as my makere hath it sent. [Chaucer, "Wife of Bath's Prologue"]
c. 1300, "the inflicting of torture," also "state of great suffering, pain, distress," from Old French torment "torture, pain, anguish, suffering distress" (11c., Modern French tourment), from Latin tormentum "twisted cord, sling; clothes-press; instrument for hurling stones," also "instrument of torture, a rack," figuratively "anguish, pain, torment," from torquere "to twist" (from PIE root *terkw- "to twist").
c. 1300, "inflict torture on, distress," from Old French tormenter "torture, torment, oppress, agitate" (12c.), from Medieval Latin tormentare "to torment, to twist," from Latin tormentum "twisted cord, sling; clothes-press; instrument for hurling stones," also "instrument of torture, a rack," figuratively "anguish, pain, torment," from torquere "to twist" (from PIE root *terkw- "to twist"). Related: Tormented; tormenting.
"labor, toil," mid-13c., from Old French travail "work, labor, toil, suffering or painful effort, trouble; arduous journey" (12c.), from travailler "to toil, labor," originally "to trouble, torture, torment," from Vulgar Latin *tripaliare "to torture," from *tripalium (in Late Latin trepalium) "instrument of torture," probably from Latin tripalis "having three stakes" (from tria "three;" see three + palus "stake" (from PIE *pakslo-, suffixed form of root *pag- "to fasten"), which sounds ominous, but the exact notion is obscure. The verb is recorded from late 13c. in English, from the verb in Old French.
"pertaining to or characterized by torture," late 15c., from Anglo-French torturous, from Old French tortureus, from Latin tortura (see torture (n.)).
Old English hearpe "harp, stringed musical instrument played with the fingers," from Proto-Germanic *harpon- (source also of Old Saxon harpa "instrument of torture;" Old Norse harpa, Dutch harp, Old High German harpfa, German Harfe "harp") of uncertain origin. Late Latin harpa, source of words in some Romanic languages (Italian arpa, Spanish arpa, French harpe), is a borrowing from Germanic. Meaning "harmonica" is from 1887, short for mouth-harp. The harp seal (1784) is so called for the harp-shaped markings on its back.
cooking utensil for broiling over a fire, early 14c., griderne, alteration (by association with iron) of gridire (late 13c.), a variant of gridil (see griddle). Confusion of "l" and "r" was common in Norman dialect. Also a medieval instrument of torture by fire. As the word for a U.S. football field, by 1896, for its lines.
"to torture, torment, inflict very severe pain on," as if by crucifying, 1560s, from Latin excruciatus, past participle of excruciare "to torture, torment, rack, plague;" figuratively "to afflict, harass, vex, torment," from ex "out, out from; thoroughly" (see ex-) + cruciare "cause pain or anguish to," literally "crucify," from crux (genitive crucis) "a cross" (see crux).