AskDefine | Define retort

Dictionary Definition



1 a quick reply to a question or remark (especially a witty or critical one); "it brought a sharp rejoinder from the teacher" [syn: rejoinder, return, riposte, replication, comeback, counter]
2 a vessel where substances are distilled or decomposed by heat v : answer back [syn: come back, repay, return, riposte, rejoin]

User Contributed Dictionary



Latin retorquere 'twist back'; re- + -tort



  1. A sharp or witty reply, or one which turns an argument against its originator.
  2. A flask with a rounded base and a long neck that is bent down and tapered, used to heat a liquid for distillation.
    • 1893, A large curved retort was boiling furiously in the bluish flame of a Bunsen burner, and the distilled drops were condensing into a two-litre measure. — Arthur Conan Doyle, ‘The Naval Treaty’ (Norton 2005, p.670)
  3. 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.


  1. To say something sharp or witty in answer to a remark or accusation.
  2. To make a remark which reverses an argument upon its originator.
  3. To heat in a retort.

Extensive Definition

In a chemistry laboratory, a retort is a glassware device used for distillation or dry distillation of substances. It consists of a spherical vessel with a long downward-pointing neck. The liquid to be distilled is placed in the vessel and heated. The neck acts as a condenser, allowing the evaporated vapors to condense and flow along the neck to a collection vessel placed underneath.
In the chemical industry, a retort is an airtight vessel in which substances are heated for a chemical reaction producing gaseous products to be collected in a collection vessel or for further processing.


Retorts were widely used by alchemists, and images of retorts appear in many drawings and sketches of their laboratories. Before the advent of modern condensers, retorts were used by many prominent chemists, such as Antoine Lavoisier and Jöns Berzelius.

Role in analytical chemistry

In laboratory use, due to advances in technology, especially the invention of the Liebig condenser, retorts have largely been rendered obsolete. However, some laboratory techniques that involve simple distillation and do not require sophisticated apparatus may use a retort as a substitute for more complex distillation equipment.

See also

retort in Danish: Retort
retort in German: Retorte
retort in Spanish: Retorta
retort in French: Cornue (verrerie)
retort in Hebrew: אביק
retort in Dutch: Retort
retort in Japanese: レトルト
retort in Polish: Retorta (laboratorium)
retort in Russian: Реторта

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

acknowledge, acknowledgment, aerosol, alembic, answer, answer back, answering, antiphon, anvil, aphorism, apothegm, atomizer, back answer, back talk, backchat, backfire, bon mot, boomerang, boutade, bright idea, bright thought, brilliant idea, caldron, come back, come back at, come in, comeback, conceit, counter, counterattack, counterblast, counterblow, countercharge, counterfire, counterinsurgency, countermeasure, counterrevolution, counterstep, counterstroke, crack, crucible, defense, echo, engine, epigram, evaporator, evasive reply, exchange, facetiae, flash back, flash of wit, flight of wit, gag, get back at, gibe, give acknowledgment, give and take, give answer, give in exchange, give in return, give-and-take, happy thought, hit back at, interchange, jape, jest, joke, lathe, machine, melting pot, mortar, mot, motor, nasty crack, persiflage, play of wit, pleasantry, quip, quips and cranks, react, reaction, ready reply, rebut, rebuttal, receipt, reciprocate, reciprocation, recoil, recrimination, reecho, rejoin, rejoinder, repartee, replication, reply, repost, reprisal, rescript, rescription, respond, respondence, response, responsion, responsory, retaliate, retaliation, return, return answer, return for answer, revenge, reverberate, reverberation, riposte, sally, say, say in reply, scintillation, shoot back, short answer, smart crack, smart saying, snappy comeback, spray, still, strike back, stroke of wit, talk back, test tube, transducer, transformer, turn of thought, vaporizer, wisecrack, witticism, witty reply, witty retort, yes-and-no answer
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