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

Keep scrolling for more

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
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

But, every once in a while, in a show as convoluted as Riverdale there are some gaps in the narrative. Carolyn Twersky, Seventeen, "9 "Riverdale" Plot Holes That Will Keep You Up at Night," 3 May 2019 My search led to a lot of confusing and convoluted articles, most of which were written by people peddling CBD products. Gretchen Lidicker, Marie Claire, "CBD Completely Changed How I Handled My Anxiety," 18 Apr. 2019 The Affordable Care Act was forced into a convoluted form, designed to reduce the deficit while also expanding health coverage. Mark Schmitt, Vox, "Yes, Democrats are the party of fiscal responsibility. But that will (and should) change.," 20 Apr. 2018 And when these inspirations are trickling in to other work, that could feel even more convoluted. Alyssa Hardy, Teen Vogue, "Virgil Abloh Talks About His Michael Jackson Inspiration for Louis Vuitton," 13 Mar. 2019 Used by exchange operators such as Intercontinental Exchange Inc. and Nasdaq Inc., the maker-taker system has been blamed by critics for making the stock market more convoluted and less transparent. Dave Michaels, WSJ, "Stock Exchanges to Test Trading Minus Rebates Seen as Posing Conflict," 19 Dec. 2018 But UnitedHealthcare seems to have blinked, signaling what could be a coming shift away from the system of convoluted deals struck between the drug companies and these middlemen, said Adam J. Fein, president of Pembroke Consulting, a research firm. Reed Abelson, New York Times, "UnitedHealthcare Says It Will Pass On Rebates From Drug Companies to Consumers," 6 Mar. 2018 The structure becomes wildly convoluted, having to accommodate both ceilings of towering heights and others half that size, often within the same volume. Kate Wagner, Curbed, "Building houses that grow with us," 14 Nov. 2018 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

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.

See More

First Known Use of convoluted

1766, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for convoluted

see convolute

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about convoluted

Listen to Our Podcast about convoluted

Statistics for convoluted

Last Updated

9 May 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for convoluted

The first known use of convoluted was in 1766

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


to take the place or position of

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words for Summer: A Quiz

  • a closeup of a sunflower
  • Which of the following words means “of or relating to summer”?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!