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

And here’s Timeless to lead the way forward with a two-hour movie/series finale, centered on Christmas and wrapping up a convoluted sci-fi series that very few people watched, but that was nonetheless beloved by those who did. Todd Vanderwerff, Vox, "Why more TV shows should do year-end Christmas specials," 23 Dec. 2018 The intense interest in the seat was a factor in Ducey’s convoluted decisions. Terry Tang, The Seattle Times, "Martha McSally to fill McCain Senate seat after losing race," 19 Dec. 2018 Following the thread's initial popularity, Foone appended a few small corrections to the summary of the long, convoluted history. Eric Limer, Popular Mechanics, "This Modern-Day Computer Bug Dates Back to 1974," 5 Nov. 2018 But then fans wheeled on the prequels: too much Jar Jar, too convoluted. Marc Bernardin, The Hollywood Reporter, "Toxic Fandom Is Killing 'Star Wars'," 11 June 2018 Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn clarified his party’s previously convoluted position on Brexit, saying the U.K. must retain close economic ties with the EU, including a tariff-free customs deal. Washington Post, "UK Labour opposition seeks softer version of Brexit," 26 Feb. 2018 But let’s be clear: Any poll in a race as convoluted as this should be viewed with caution, and certainly no poll a week out or more out should be considered a predictor of the Tuesday’s outcome. Michael Smolens,, "Will San Diego be the 'blue wave' canary in a coal mine?," 3 June 2018 Ultron develops an extremely convoluted plan to turn Sokovia into a meteor that will crash into earth. Eliana Dockterman, Time, "Avengers: Infinity War Is Almost Here. Here’s What to Know About the Marvel Cinematic Universe Before You Go," 23 Apr. 2018 Beyond that, this is kind of a convoluted mess of people finding things out without really doing anything. Elizabeth Logan, Glamour, "Every Single Episode of Gossip Girl, Ranked," 19 Sep. 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

3 Jan 2019

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Time Traveler for convoluted

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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Comments on convoluted

What made you want to look up convoluted? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a complex dispute or argument

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