Severe distortion is one of the four core effects in single-phase high-entropy alloys (HEAs) and contributes significantly to the yield strength. However, the connection between the atomic-scale lattice distortion and macro-scale mechanical properties through experimental verification has yet to be fully achieved, owing to two critical challenges: 1) the difficulty in the development of homogeneous single-phase solid-solution HEAs and 2) the ambiguity in describing the lattice distortion and related measurements and calculations. A single-phase body-centered-cubic (BCC) refractory HEA, NbTaTiVZr, using thermodynamic modeling coupled with experimental verifications, is developed. Compared to the previously developed single-phase NbTaTiV HEA, the NbTaTiVZr HEA shows a higher yield strength and comparable plasticity. The increase in yield strength is systematically and quantitatively studied in terms of lattice distortion using a theoretical model, first-principles calculations, synchrotron X-ray/neutron diffraction, atom-probe tomography, and scanning transmission electron microscopy techniques. These results demonstrate that severe lattice distortion is a core factor for developing high strengths in refractory HEAs.