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.
It forms all or part of: contort; distort; extort; extortion; nasturtium; queer; retort; thwart; torch; torment; torque (n.) "rotating force;" torsion; tort; torticollis; tortuous; torture; truss.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit tarkuh "spindle;" Latin torquere "to twist;" Old Church Slavonic traku "band, girdle;" Old High German drahsil "turner," German drechseln "to turn on a lathe;" Old Norse þvert "across," Old English þweorh "transverse, perverse, angry, cross," Gothic þwairhs "angry."
"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).
early 15c., "wringing pain in the bowels," from Old French torsion "colic" (early 14c.), from Late Latin torsionem (nominative torsio) "a wringing or gripping," from Latin tortionem (nominative tortio) "torture, torment," noun of action from past-participle stem of torquere "to twist, distort, torture" (from PIE root *terkw- "to twist"). Meaning "act or effect of twisting as by opposing forces" is first recorded 1540s.