spon·​ta·​ne·​ous | \ spän-ˈtā-nē-əs How to pronounce spontaneous (audio) \

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

Other Words from spontaneous

spontaneously adverb
spontaneousness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for spontaneous



  • nonmechanical
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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?

When English philosopher Thomas Hobbes penned his 1656 The Questions Concerning Liberty, Necessity, and Chance he included the following: "all voluntary actions … are called also spontaneous, and said to be done by man's own accord." Hobbes was writing in English, but he knew Latin perfectly well too, including the source of spontaneous; the word comes, via Late Latin spontaneus, from the Latin sponte, meaning "of one's free will, voluntarily." In modern use, the word spontaneous is frequently heard in more mundane settings, where it often describes what is done or said without a lot of thought or planning.

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.
Recent Examples on the Web Browsing the plethora of consigned goods on The RealReal is all about spontaneous discovery, with offerings like handbags, clothing, and even housewares. ELLE, 25 June 2022 Ticket-holders drop words in a bucket for a spontaneous rap reel. San Diego Union-Tribune, 23 June 2022 His tangy, off-kilter visual compositions, rendered in an acidulous, sun-washed Kodachrome palette, convey a sense of spontaneous wonder and enthusiasm and lend daily conversations and activities a distinctive cinematic identity. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 23 June 2022 The series unfolds with a documentary vocabulary, including camerawork that has the feel of spontaneous, captured moments. Carolyn Giardina, The Hollywood Reporter, 22 June 2022 But ecosystems may also be much larger communities of hundreds or even thousands of partners where the collaborations are more spontaneous and fluid depending upon the opportunities. Norma Watenpaugh, Forbes, 10 June 2022 Lavoisier and Marie Anne are not quite posed, but caught at a spontaneous moment, as if stopped in the course of their work. Cynthia Saltzman, WSJ, 29 Apr. 2022 But Licorice Pizza lifts the curse with every seemingly spontaneous moment of young adult discovery. Armond White, National Review, 14 Jan. 2022 Instead of a spontaneous moment on the streets of Vietnam, Harris held a small roundtable with LGBTQ and climate change activists. Alexandra Jaffe, ajc, 28 Aug. 2021 See More

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.

First Known Use of spontaneous

1605, 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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Time Traveler for spontaneous

Time Traveler

The first known use of spontaneous was in 1605

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Dictionary Entries Near spontaneous



spontaneous amputation

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Last Updated

26 Jun 2022

Cite this Entry

“Spontaneous.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/spontaneous. Accessed 28 Jun. 2022.

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More Definitions for spontaneous


spon·​ta·​ne·​ous | \ spän-ˈtā-nē-əs How to pronounce spontaneous (audio) \

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


spon·​ta·​ne·​ous | \ spän-ˈtā-nē-əs How to pronounce spontaneous (audio) \

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

More from Merriam-Webster on spontaneous

Nglish: Translation of spontaneous for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of spontaneous for Arabic Speakers


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