con·​vo·​lut·​ed | \ ˈkän-və-ˌlü-təd How to pronounce convoluted (audio) \

Essential Meaning of convoluted

1 : very complicated and difficult to understand convoluted logic a convoluted plot The argument was so convoluted [=intricate, involved] that most people missed the point.
2 formal : having many twists and curves a convoluted structure

Full Definition of convoluted

1 : having convolutions a ram with convoluted horns
2 : involved, intricate a convoluted argument

The Origin of Convoluted Isn't

Convoluted and convolution (a noun referring to a folded, winding shape, such as one of the ridges of the brain) are from Latin volvere, meaning "to roll." Volvere has given English many words, but one of the following is NOT from volvere. Can you pick it out?

vault voluminous volley voluble devolve
The path from vault to volvere leads (rather convolutedly) through Middle English, Anglo-French, and Vulgar Latin to Latin volutus, past participle of volvere. Voluble meant "rolling easily" before it meant "speaking readily," and voluminous first meant "consisting of many folds." Devolve (to pass down, as in the stewardship devolved upon the son) once meant literally to roll down. The word that doesn’t belong is volley. It’s from Latin volare, meaning "to fly."

Examples of convoluted in a Sentence

At base stands a profound respect for the integrity of history and the complex and convoluted relationship between present and the past. — Ira Berlin, New York Times Book Review, 9 Sept. 2001 They are pictures of convoluted tree trunks on an island of pink wave-smoothed stone … — Margaret Atwood, Harper's, August 1990 … she has been fashioning sequences of plans too convoluted to materialize … — Joseph Heller, God Knows, 1984 To therapists, stepfamilies may present convoluted psychological dilemmas … — Letty Cottin Pogrebin, Family Politics, 1983 a convoluted explanation that left the listeners even more confused than they were before
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Recent Examples on the Web But infrastructure did pass through this convoluted political process and the president signed it. Tax Notes Staff, Forbes, 5 Jan. 2022 The stalemate ended this week, when Senator Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and minority leader, cut a deal with leading Democrats on a convoluted process that would allow the borrowing cap to be raised on a simple majority vote. New York Times, 9 Dec. 2021 That could force Senate Democrats to engage in a convoluted legislative process in the coming weeks to avoid a federal default that would rattle the fragile economy. Mike Debonis, Anchorage Daily News, 3 Dec. 2021 And—big surprise but not a spoiler—the whole convoluted adventure, directed with jaunty humor by Jon Watts, comes to an extravagant action climax that’s most notable for its kind heart. Joe Morgenstern, WSJ, 16 Dec. 2021 The two passers eventually found themselves in a convoluted quarterback rotation, until Slovis suffered a lower-leg injury late in the season. Ryan Kartje, Los Angeles Times, 13 Dec. 2021 For such a simple but effective set-up, Lundgren, who also directs, makes things unnecessarily messy and convoluted, typing characters’ names on screen and telling us the day of the week, for no discernible reason. Mary Colurso |, al, 7 Dec. 2021 And Just Like That follow any of the movies' convoluted continuity? Lester Fabian Brathwaite,, 7 Dec. 2021 Story Much of the excitement that comes from jumping into Halo Infinite’s campaign is continuing the convoluted Halo 5: Guardians’ story. Brittany Vincent, BGR, 6 Dec. 2021

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

1766, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for convoluted

from past participle of convolute

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Time Traveler for convoluted

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The first known use of convoluted was in 1766

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Dictionary Entries Near convoluted



convoluted tubule

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Last Updated

11 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Convoluted.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Jan. 2022.

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More Definitions for convoluted


con·​vo·​lut·​ed | \ -ˌlü-təd How to pronounce convoluted (audio) \

Medical Definition of convoluted

: folded in curved or tortuous windings specifically : having convolutions the highly convoluted human cerebral cortex

More from Merriam-Webster on convoluted

Nglish: Translation of convoluted for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of convoluted for Arabic Speakers


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