spontaneous

adjective
spon·​ta·​ne·​ous | \ spän-ˈtā-nē-əs \

Definition of spontaneous

1 : proceeding from natural feeling or native tendency without external constraint
2 : arising from a momentary impulse
3 : controlled and directed internally : self-acting spontaneous movement characteristic of living things
4 : produced without being planted or without human labor : indigenous
5 : developing or occurring without apparent external influence, force, cause, or treatment
6 : not apparently contrived or manipulated : natural

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Other Words from spontaneous

spontaneously adverb
spontaneousness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for spontaneous

spontaneous, impulsive, instinctive, automatic, mechanical mean acting or activated without deliberation. spontaneous implies lack of prompting and connotes naturalness. a spontaneous burst of applause impulsive implies acting under stress of emotion or spirit of the moment. impulsive acts of violence instinctive stresses action involving neither judgment nor will. blinking is an instinctive reaction automatic implies action engaging neither the mind nor the emotions and connotes a predictable response. his denial was automatic mechanical stresses the lifeless, often perfunctory character of the response. a mechanical teaching method

Did You Know?

Spontaneous derives, via the Late Latin spontaneus, from the Latin sponte, meaning "of one's free will, voluntarily," and first appeared in English in the mid-17th century. Thomas Hobbes was an early adopter: he wrote that "all voluntary actions … are called also spontaneous, and said to be done by man's own accord" in his famous 1656 The Questions Concerning Liberty, Necessity, and Chance. Today the word is more often applied to things done or said in a natural and often sudden way, without a lot of thought or planning—or to people who do or say things in such a way.

Examples of spontaneous in a Sentence

Shane has a lovely habit of paying us spontaneous visits: one time she brought over a jar of a pickle she'd recently put up; another time just a good story or two. — James Oseland, Saveur, December 2006 Cold viruses can damage the olfactory system directly. This loss of smell may last even after the cold is over. Sometimes the sense comes back as suddenly as it disappeared, perhaps because even as adults we generate new olfactory neurons. Spontaneous improvement might be a person's best hope, because there are no real proven treatments for reversing olfactory nerve damage. Harvard Health Letter, September 2001 Peter Jakobsen of the European Space Agency, which built the Faint Object Camera, drew spontaneous applause at the January meeting when he showed an image of supernova SN1987A from the instrument. — Kristin Leutwyler, Scientific American, March 1994 The comment was completely spontaneous. He's a guy who's spontaneous and fun.
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Recent Examples on the Web

The seemingly spontaneous movement—named for the fluorescent yellow vests that motorists are required to have in their cars—began when President Emmanuel Macron hiked the diesel fuel tax. Lynn Yaeger, Vogue, "In Paris, the Gilets Jaunes Protests Impact Holiday Shopping Season," 17 Dec. 2018 But as this market matures, attention has turned to the more spontaneous shopper. Anne Kadet, WSJ, "Checking Out New York’s Online Grocery Stores and All Their Trimmings," 20 Nov. 2018 The result sparked massive, spontaneous outpourings of joy as drivers blared their horns and fans produced flags out of nowhere. Joshua Robinson, WSJ, "Russia Knocks Out Spain in Shootout," 1 July 2018 Every day, 400 million people open up Instagram and flip through Stories — which amps up the pressure on users and brands to make their content seem cool and spontaneous. Recode Staff, Recode, "Recode Daily: Viral game-show app HQ Trivia faces some existential questions," 5 Nov. 2018 Problems with the virtual assistant range from spontaneous, eery laughter coming from Echo speakers to Alexa recording a private conversation and sending it in a message to a contact. Valentina Palladino, Ars Technica, "Amazon said to release eight new Alexa devices before year’s end," 18 Sep. 2018 Its release has sparked some of the same whimsical and spontaneous creativity that made the early Internet so much fun. Morgen Peck, Glamour, "Cryptocurrency Is Not Just a Boys' Club," 24 Apr. 2018 Like Sodha, with her bangs and red lipstick, these recipes feel both relaxed and spontaneous, taking much of the intimidation out of Indian cooking. Christine Muhlke, Bon Appetit, "17 New Spring Cookbooks We Can’t Wait to Stain," 2 Apr. 2018 The latest is called cortical spreading depression, which refers to a spontaneous electrical wave that travels through the brain’s cortex. Tony Dajer, Discover Magazine, "Vertigo, Panic and Trouble Breathing: What's Going On Here?," 19 Oct. 2018

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

1653, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for spontaneous

Late Latin spontaneus, from Latin sponte of one's free will, voluntarily

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Last Updated

7 Jan 2019

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Time Traveler for spontaneous

The first known use of spontaneous was in 1653

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More Definitions for spontaneous

spontaneous

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of spontaneous

: done or said in a natural and often sudden way and without a lot of thought or planning

: doing things that have not been planned but that seem enjoyable and worth doing at a particular time

spontaneous

adjective
spon·​ta·​ne·​ous | \ spän-ˈtā-nē-əs \

Kids Definition of spontaneous

1 : done, said, or produced freely and naturally spontaneous laughter
2 : acting or taking place without outside force or cause a spontaneous fire

Other Words from spontaneous

spontaneously adverb

spontaneous

adjective
spon·​ta·​ne·​ous | \ spän-ˈtā-nē-əs \

Medical Definition of spontaneous

1 : proceeding from natural feeling or native tendency without external constraint
2 : developing without apparent external influence, force, cause, or treatment a spontaneous nosebleed

Other Words from spontaneous

spontaneously adverb

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