con·​vo·​lut·​ed | \ ˈkän-və-ˌlü-təd How to pronounce convoluted (audio) \

Definition of convoluted

1 : having convolutions a ram with convoluted horns
2 : involved, intricate a convoluted argument

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The Origin of Convoluted Isn't

Convoluted and convolution (a noun referring to a folded, winding shape, such as one of the ridges of the brain) are from Latin volvere, meaning "to roll." Volvere has given English many words, but one of the following is NOT from volvere. Can you pick it out?

vault voluminous volley voluble devolve
The path from vault to volvere leads (rather convolutedly) through Middle English, Anglo-French, and Vulgar Latin to Latin volutus, past participle of volvere. Voluble meant "rolling easily" before it meant "speaking readily," and voluminous first meant "consisting of many folds." Devolve (to pass down, as in the stewardship devolved upon the son) once meant literally to roll down. The word that doesn’t belong is volley. It’s from Latin volare, meaning "to fly."

Examples of convoluted in a Sentence

At base stands a profound respect for the integrity of history and the complex and convoluted relationship between present and the past. — Ira Berlin, New York Times Book Review, 9 Sept. 2001 They are pictures of convoluted tree trunks on an island of pink wave-smoothed stone … — Margaret Atwood, Harper's, August 1990 … she has been fashioning sequences of plans too convoluted to materialize … — Joseph Heller, God Knows, 1984 To therapists, stepfamilies may present convoluted psychological dilemmas … — Letty Cottin Pogrebin, Family Politics, 1983 a convoluted explanation that left the listeners even more confused than they were before
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Recent Examples on the Web After months of campaign events, polls, debates and candidate interviews, the first votes of the 2020 presidential election will finally be cast tonight, in the convoluted process known as the Iowa caucus. Jeremy Barr, The Hollywood Reporter, ""We're Ready to Go": Iowa Caucus Signals 2020 Kickoff for Television News Networks," 3 Feb. 2020 Kingdom Hearts III, released last January, marked the chance for an ending to do justice to this wild creation of Square Enix and Disney, putting a capper on 18 years of some of the most convoluted storytelling to ever grace games. Julie Muncy, Wired, "Kingdom Hearts III Re: Mind Is the Antidote to Bad Endings," 29 Jan. 2020 In an article co-published by Fortune and ProPublica, Paul Kiel tells the convoluted and fascinating tale of the Internal Revenue Service’s efforts to challenge a Microsoft transaction in Puerto Rico. Fortune, "Ahead of its fourth-quarter earnings, Facebook faces costly regulatory pitfalls," 28 Jan. 2020 The Lost Dutchman gold is here The myth: There are many variations to the convoluted tale of an immense hoard of gold hidden somewhere in the Superstition Mountains, but all are tied to Jacob Waltz, said to have drawn a map on his deathbed. Scott Craven, azcentral, "Arizona myths, busted: 6 things that just aren't true about the Grand Canyon State," 2 Jan. 2020 Only 72 percent of Californians who qualify for SNAP — which is called CalFresh in the state — receive the benefit, which most experts chalk up to a convoluted application process. Tara Duggan,, "California has one of the country’s lowest rates of food stamp enrollment. Could text messages help?," 30 Oct. 2019 Currently, the island's convoluted electoral process gives the mainland the de facto ability to choose Hong Kong's leaders. Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica, "Blizzard bans pro Hearthstone gamer for statement supporting Hong Kong," 8 Oct. 2019 Obviously, hyper-convoluted plot machinations can work if the film itself has enough momentum to propel the audience through it all, or if there’s some larger, overriding theme or sentiment tying it all together. Bryan Bishop, The Verge, "The Predator could have been the franchise’s chance to finally have an identity," 8 Sep. 2018 In the sharks’ opinion, Altieri’s revenue system was more than a little convoluted. Matthew Wilson, USA TODAY, "'Shark Tank' recap: Entrepreneur screens sharks for investment in his flexible window screens," 6 Jan. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'convoluted.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of convoluted

1766, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for convoluted

see convolute

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Time Traveler for convoluted

Time Traveler

The first known use of convoluted was in 1766

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Last Updated

14 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Convoluted.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for convoluted


How to pronounce convoluted (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of convoluted

: very complicated and difficult to understand
formal : having many twists and curves


con·​vo·​lut·​ed | \ -ˌlü-təd How to pronounce convoluted (audio) \

Medical Definition of convoluted

: folded in curved or tortuous windings specifically : having convolutions the highly convoluted human cerebral cortex

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