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 The three hosts — Regina Hall, Amy Schumer and especially Wanda Sykes — should provide some laughter as long as they’re permitted to be spontaneous. David L. Coddon, San Diego Union-Tribune, 24 Mar. 2022 Cuban officials had been on edge, fearing the spontaneous island-wide protests that rocked Cuba in January and led to over 1,000 arrests, according to activist groups. CNN, 15 Nov. 2021 Activists estimate that Cuba’s security agents detained more than 600 demonstrators and activists shortly after the wave of spontaneous, nationwide protests in mid-July. Santiago Pérez, WSJ, 26 July 2021 The mass, spontaneous protests that broke out all over Cuba last weekend are yet another sign that the country’s government lacks legitimacy. Rich Lowry, National Review, 13 July 2021 Beijing has characterized the spontaneous protests as the work of meddlesome foreign countries. Washington Post, 6 July 2021 Some are candids—showing a more spontaneous side to a woman known for her stoicism. Elise Taylor, Vogue, 21 Apr. 2022 And so that [taking the shirt off] was kind of spontaneous. Philip Ellis, Men's Health, 19 Apr. 2022 For his part, Walt, spontaneous-to-a-fault, has different motivations for space travel. Katherine Singh, refinery29.com, 1 Apr. 2022 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

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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

9 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Spontaneous.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/spontaneous. Accessed 16 May. 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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