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

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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

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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 Ramaphosa also reiterated that the violence was not spontaneous but allegedly planned. Mogomotsi Magome And Andrew Meldrum, Star Tribune, 19 July 2021 Like the Tea Party, this movement is spontaneous, self-organizing, and uncontrolled. Matthew Continetti, National Review, 10 July 2021 As some observant fans noted, Liz’s departure wasn’t spontaneous. Selena Barrientos, Good Housekeeping, 24 June 2021 Sydney and the Colorado mountains are two of my favorite places. Plan it out or be spontaneous? Megan Ditrolio, Marie Claire, 13 June 2021 Culture integration: As employees return to the office and in-person mingling returns, those working remotely miss out on spontaneous moments of connection and may become further isolated from their peers. Aram Lulla, Forbes, 5 May 2021 Though the era of QAnon is far from over, there have been at least a few spontaneous moments of Americans intervening in their communities and professional networks to slow its spread. Kaitlyn Tiffany, The Atlantic, 30 Oct. 2020 The result was a spontaneous community celebration that has been observed every year ever since. Kevin Dayhoff, baltimoresun.com/maryland/carroll, 11 June 2021 With workers distributed across different environments, your physical office becomes the central location to bring people together and foster creativity, collaboration and spontaneous interactions. Jeanne Hardy, Forbes, 8 June 2021

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

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

1 Aug 2021

Cite this Entry

“Spontaneous.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/spontaneous. Accessed 3 Aug. 2021.

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More Definitions for spontaneous



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


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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