involuntary

adjective

in·​vol·​un·​tary (ˌ)in-ˈvä-lən-ˌter-ē How to pronounce involuntary (audio)
-ˌte-rē
1
: done contrary to or without choice
2
3
: not subject to control of the will : reflex
involuntarily adverb
involuntariness noun

Example Sentences

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.
Recent Examples on the Web Moore eventually pleaded guilty to the charge, but appealed the conviction to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, arguing his confession to police was involuntary. Elliot Hughes, Journal Sentinel, 4 Jan. 2023 Most startling of the signs of life after death are involuntary movements mediated by the spinal cord. Jeremy N. Smith, Discover Magazine, 25 Nov. 2022 The law allows a court to order a person with mental illness to comply with an outpatient treatment plan, risking involuntary commitment if the person refuses. Ellen Barry, New York Times, 11 Dec. 2022 The law allows a court to order a person with mental illness to comply with an outpatient treatment plan, risking involuntary commitment if the person refuses. Ellen Barry, BostonGlobe.com, 11 Dec. 2022 Mental health advocates and other critics of involuntary commitment and heavy policing say the strategies are causing more harm than good. Theara Coleman, The Week, 6 Dec. 2022 This time, departures from the W-2 ranks are involuntary but the result is the same: new businesses continue to be formed at far greater rates than in 2019–even if many of them are businesses of one. Bradley Jacobs, Fortune, 2 Dec. 2022 The hospital contains 130 beds; patients can be admitted on a voluntary or involuntary basis and typically stay five to 10 days at a time, Procaccino said. Michael Brice-saddler, Washington Post, 29 July 2022 Brooks and Roberson are also charged with a second count of involuntary servitude. Phil Helsel, NBC News, 15 Nov. 2022 See More

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.

Word History

Etymology

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

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near involuntary

Cite this Entry

“Involuntary.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/involuntary. Accessed 27 Jan. 2023.

Kids Definition

involuntary

adjective
in·​vol·​un·​tary (ˈ)in-ˈväl-ən-ˌter-ē How to pronounce involuntary (audio)
1
: not made or done willingly or from choice : unwilling
2
: being enforced or required : mandatory
3
: not normally under the control of the will
an involuntary response to a stimulus
involuntarily adverb

Medical Definition

involuntary

adjective
in·​vol·​un·​tary (ˈ)in-ˈväl-ən-ˌter-ē How to pronounce involuntary (audio)
: not subject to control of the will : reflex
involuntary contractions

Legal Definition

involuntary

adjective
in·​vol·​un·​tary in-ˈvä-lən-ˌter-ē How to pronounce involuntary (audio)
: done, made, or initiated contrary to or without one's choice
an involuntary confession
an involuntary lien
an involuntary plaintiff joined in the action
involuntarily adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on involuntary

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