in·​vol·​un·​tary | \ (ˌ)in-ˈvä-lən-ˌter-ē How to pronounce involuntary (audio) , -ˌte-rē \

Definition of involuntary

1 : done contrary to or without choice
3 : not subject to control of the will : reflex

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Other Words from involuntary

involuntarily \ (ˌ)in-​ˌvä-​lən-​ˈter-​ə-​lē How to pronounce involuntary (audio) , -​ˈte-​rə-​ \ adverb
involuntariness \ (ˌ)in-​ˈvä-​lən-​ˌter-​ē-​nəs How to pronounce involuntary (audio) , -​ˌte-​rē-​ \ noun

Examples of involuntary in a Sentence

Breathing and circulation are involuntary processes. When the door burst open, she let out an involuntary shriek. The lawyer argued that the client's confession was involuntary.
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Recent Examples on the Web Lathram said about 19 other states had similar language on involuntary servitude in their constitutions. Mike Cason |, al, 2 Sep. 2021 The free Cobra is also available to workers who lost health insurance due to an involuntary reduction in their work hours. Anne Tergesen, WSJ, 13 Mar. 2021 Barker and Gray received an anonymous voicemail in 2019, saying that Spears' stay in a mental health facility was involuntary. Alicia Rancilio, Star Tribune, 30 July 2021 Indeed, the metabolic process of respiration, which supplies oxygen to all the tissues of the body and removes carbon dioxide, is involuntary. Dana Santas, CNN, 16 June 2021 The pact allows for voluntary, and some involuntary, teacher transfers to help out, while giving teachers the right to return later to their original campuses. Howard Blume Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 22 Sep. 2021 Assimilation — involuntary and voluntary — took its toll. NBC News, 22 Sep. 2021 The study tested for three hormones -- norepinephrine, epinephrine and dopamine -- that regulate the autonomic nervous system and control such involuntary body functions as heart rate, blood pressure and breathing. Sandee Lamotte, CNN, 13 Sep. 2021 Others have faced involuntary layoffs due to the economic challenges caused by the pandemic. Rachel Epstein, Marie Claire, 12 Sep. 2021

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

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for involuntary

Middle English involuntari, from Late Latin involuntarius, from Latin in- + voluntarius voluntary

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Time Traveler for involuntary

Time Traveler

The first known use of involuntary was in the 15th century

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Dictionary Entries Near involuntary



involuntary admission

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Statistics for involuntary

Last Updated

21 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Involuntary.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for involuntary



English Language Learners Definition of involuntary

: not done or made consciously
: not done by choice


in·​vol·​un·​tary | \ in-ˈvä-lən-ˌter-ē How to pronounce involuntary (audio) \

Kids Definition of involuntary

1 : not done consciously an involuntary whimper
2 : not done by choice involuntary labor

Other Words from involuntary

involuntarily \ ˌin-​ˌvä-​lən-​ˈter-​ə-​lē \ adverb


in·​vol·​un·​tary | \ (ˈ)in-ˈväl-ən-ˌter-ē How to pronounce involuntary (audio) \

Medical Definition of involuntary

: not subject to control of the will : reflex involuntary contractions

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in·​vol·​un·​tary | \ in-ˈvä-lən-ˌter-ē How to pronounce involuntary (audio) \

Legal Definition of involuntary

: done, made, or initiated contrary to or without one's choice an involuntary confession an involuntary lien an involuntary plaintiff joined in the action

Other Words from involuntary

involuntarily adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on involuntary

Nglish: Translation of involuntary for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of involuntary for Arabic Speakers


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