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 And there is a very convoluted Senate budget process called reconciliation that allows some legislation to advance without being subject to a filibuster. New York Times, "Could Trump Be Convicted? ‘Just Do the Math’," 27 Jan. 2021 The Cowboys might still have a path to the national semifinal, albeit a convoluted one, but a second loss would remove that slim possibility. Eddie Timanus, USA TODAY, "Five games in Week 12 with the biggest College Football Playoff impact," 20 Nov. 2020 Yet, even the Fed’s contribution to soaring tech stocks should trickle through eventually, in a convoluted way. James Mackintosh, WSJ, "Fed’s Easy Money Pumps Up Winners Like Apple and Housing," 27 Aug. 2020 In this series of works, nearly every painting has a snake-like figure flailing in the background, growing larger, as the figures seem to exit childhood into more frenetic, convoluted scenes. Lauren Smart, Dallas News, "Jeremiah Onifadé's paintings reflect the Black experience — and our shared humanity," 26 Jan. 2021 And although the convoluted storyline teeters right on the edge of ludicrous, The Wilds wears its soapy quality lightly. Kate Knibbs, Wired, "The Wilds Is Lost With Whip-Smart Teen Drama," 25 Jan. 2021 The current Brooks Range ownership group is the latest in a series of convoluted structures since oil prices first fell in 2014 and funding for the project became scarce. Elwood Brehmer, Anchorage Daily News, "Alaska development bank forecloses on oil field assets after $70 million investment," 21 Jan. 2021 The bulk of the funding came from the federal CARES Act, allowing the county to sidestep the usual convoluted process of finding money for affordable housing. Los Angeles Times, "This L.A. project shows that homeless housing can be done quickly and cheaply," 18 Jan. 2021 Santa Clara County is among the more transparent in providing vaccine data, and its reports offer perhaps the clearest picture yet of the state’s convoluted distribution system. Catherine Ho,, "California has 2 million unused doses of vaccine even as demand soars. Here’s why," 16 Jan. 2021

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

16 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Convoluted.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Feb. 2021.

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More Definitions for convoluted



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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