involuntary

adjective
in·​vol·​un·​tary | \ (ˌ)in-ˈvä-lən-ˌter-ē How to pronounce involuntary (audio) , -ˌte-rē \

Definition of involuntary

1 : done contrary to or without choice
3 : not subject to control of the will : reflex

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Other Words from involuntary

involuntarily \ (ˌ)in-​ˌvä-​lən-​ˈter-​ə-​lē How to pronounce involuntary (audio) , -​ˈte-​rə-​ \ adverb
involuntariness \ (ˌ)in-​ˈvä-​lən-​ˌter-​ē-​nəs How to pronounce involuntary (audio) , -​ˌte-​rē-​ \ noun

Examples of involuntary in a Sentence

Breathing and circulation are involuntary processes. When the door burst open, she let out an involuntary shriek. The lawyer argued that the client's confession was involuntary.
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Recent Examples on the Web After Judge Tanya Chutkan overruled them, Crowns suggested what reporters saw was called agonal breathing — involuntary intakes of air in the final moments before death. Michael Tarm, Star Tribune, "Executioners sanitized accounts of deaths in federal cases," 17 Feb. 2021 The ramifications were much more serious for involuntary subjects of an investigation in a field study conducted by ten Brinke and Porter. Christiane Gelitz, Scientific American, "Humans Are Pretty Lousy Lie Detectors," 9 Feb. 2021 The president asked the defense secretary to immediately prohibit involuntary separations, discharges, and denials of reenlistment on the basis of gender identity. Shannon Larson, BostonGlobe.com, "A look at each of President Biden’s executive orders," 5 Feb. 2021 Four days into stimulation, however, his heart rate began inching up to a more normal 60 beats per minute—an effect on his involuntary movement, not his hand motions. Max G. Levy, Wired, "A New Way to Restore Hand Mobility—With an Electrified Patch," 29 Jan. 2021 Reducing staff, both through voluntary and involuntary measures, has been common not only among media outlets but across wide swaths of the global economy. Phil Rosenthal, chicagotribune.com, "NBC Sports Chicago job cuts claim writers J.J. Stankevitz and Scott King," 22 Jan. 2021 Default Friend is a writer and involuntary digital nomad. Default Friend, Washington Examiner, "Satire in the city," 21 Jan. 2021 Business owners in other states can expect to navigate some version of Ms. Geske’s involuntary education on auto I.R.A.s in the months and years to come. New York Times, "Saving at Work for Retirement: A Perk Coming to More States in 2021," 22 Dec. 2020 In North Carolina involuntary eugenics was practiced until 2003; the Eugenics Compensation Act of 2015 allowed the approximately 220 living victims to receive compensatory damages. Gabrielle A. Perry, refinery29.com, "Of Course Black Americans Are Wary Of The COVID Vaccines. Here’s A Path Forward," 22 Dec. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'involuntary.' 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 involuntary

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for involuntary

Middle English involuntari, from Late Latin involuntarius, from Latin in- + voluntarius voluntary

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Time Traveler for involuntary

Time Traveler

The first known use of involuntary was in the 15th century

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Statistics for involuntary

Last Updated

23 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Involuntary.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/involuntary. Accessed 2 Mar. 2021.

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More Definitions for involuntary

involuntary

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of involuntary

: not done or made consciously
: not done by choice

involuntary

adjective
in·​vol·​un·​tary | \ in-ˈvä-lən-ˌter-ē How to pronounce involuntary (audio) \

Kids Definition of involuntary

1 : not done consciously an involuntary whimper
2 : not done by choice involuntary labor

Other Words from involuntary

involuntarily \ ˌin-​ˌvä-​lən-​ˈter-​ə-​lē \ adverb

involuntary

adjective
in·​vol·​un·​tary | \ (ˈ)in-ˈväl-ən-ˌter-ē How to pronounce involuntary (audio) \

Medical Definition of involuntary

: not subject to control of the will : reflex involuntary contractions

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involuntary

adjective
in·​vol·​un·​tary | \ in-ˈvä-lən-ˌter-ē How to pronounce involuntary (audio) \

Legal Definition of involuntary

: done, made, or initiated contrary to or without one's choice an involuntary confession an involuntary lien an involuntary plaintiff joined in the action

Other Words from involuntary

involuntarily adverb

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Comments on involuntary

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