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

Managing Cisco’s many varieties of networking equipment, which help computers exchange data, became such a convoluted process over time that customers who learned to do so became loath to try competing products. New York Times, "Cisco Chief Executive’s New Mantra: Simplify Computer Networks," 10 July 2018 However, for HSAs to be a real change agent in the cost of medical procedures, the insurance industry’s convoluted pricing structure must also be reformed. Michelle Leichty West Lafayette, Ind. WSJ, "Price Opacity Limits Optimal Use of HSAs," 27 June 2018 But the entire episode is instructive of the convoluted nature of American health care policy. Sy Mukherjee, Fortune, "3 Key Lessons From Trump's Drug Price Feud With Pfizer," 11 July 2018 The president may have been contemplating his next betrayals of liberty; but his stocky old chaplain was perhaps just marvelling at the convoluted ways of God. The Economist, "Obituary: Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo, the first cardinal from Central America," 23 June 2018 Hard cases may involve ambiguous or convoluted statutes, requiring the justices to consider not just individual words, but also context, structure, and purpose. Carolyn Shapiro, Fortune, "Brett Kavanaugh Said Judges Should Just Follow the Law. Here’s Why That’s Bull," 10 July 2018 This convoluted cooking happens to me often — an ingredient left from one project prompts another. Jeanmarie Brownson,, "When Eton mess gives you extra yolks, whip them up into ice cream," 10 July 2018 Adoption can be a convoluted and tedious process in India, and there is a huge demand for babies — especially male heirs who can earn for parents in old age. Vidhi Doshi, Washington Post, "Nun from Mother Teresa’s charity in India arrested on suspicion of selling baby," 6 July 2018 This ruling further complicates the already convoluted judicial ruling that makes effective enforcement impossible. Louise Radnofsky, WSJ, "Tally and Location of Migrant Minors in Question," 28 June 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

12 Sep 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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