con·​vo·​lut·​ed | \ˈkän-və-ˌlü-təd \

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

Sure enough, some of those elements find their way into the play, but in a desperately convoluted and sketchy fashion. Tony Adler, Chicago Reader, "The inchoate new MPAACT show Blood Mural misses what’s right in front of it," 25 Apr. 2018 The confusion surrounding Isco's woes at Real Madrid only became more convoluted on Tuesday night as the midfielder scored a hat-trick against Argentina., "Spain Teammate Offers Isco Escape Route Out of Midfielder's Real Madrid Misery," 28 Mar. 2018 The old site, launched in 2001 and stiff with tiny text, confused many visitors with a difficult-to-navigate scheme and convoluted menu options. Graham Ambrose,, "No longer overdue: Boston Public Library rolls out shiny new website," 13 June 2018 This convoluted reasoning could only take place in the wonderfully wacky world of top-two primaries, where second place is as good as first, but no one wants to be third. John Wildermuth, San Francisco Chronicle, "California governor candidates see hidden messages in campaign ads," 25 May 2018 Apple was seeking $1 billion in the prolonged, convoluted patent trial; Samsung wanted to pay $28 million. Recode Staff, Recode, "Recode Daily: Alexa ... the call is coming from inside the house," 25 May 2018 But no matter how convoluted the catch-rule has become, there was no reason Bryant had to reach out for the goal line. Peter Dawson, star-telegram, "The top 10 worst DFW playoff blunders of the past 40 years," 2 June 2018 But the league also cleared the way for teams to set their own workplace policies, raising the specter of an even more convoluted approach to an issue that has dominated conversation away from the field., "Stand Or Stay Out of Sight: NFL Takes on Anthem Protesters," 23 May 2018 From the opening bid to the close of the sale, the process of buying a house is likely the most convoluted, complex and redundant that most consumers face. Joanne Cleaver,, "Could blockchain technology transform homebuying in Cook County — and beyond?," 9 July 2018

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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Last Updated

7 Nov 2018

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The first known use of convoluted was in 1766

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More Definitions for convoluted



English Language Learners Definition of convoluted

: very complicated and difficult to understand

: having many twists and curves


con·​vo·​lut·​ed | \-ˌlü-təd \

Medical Definition of convoluted 

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

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