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[in-vol-uh n-ter-ee] /ɪnˈvɒl ənˌtɛr i/
not voluntary; independent of one's will; not by one's own choice:
an involuntary listener; involuntary servitude.
unintentional; unconscious:
an involuntary gesture.
Physiology. acting independently of or done or occurring without volition:
involuntary muscles.
Origin of involuntary
From the Late Latin word involuntārius, dating back to 1525-35. See in-3, voluntary
Related forms
[in-vol-uh n-ter-uh-lee, -vol-uh n-tair-] /ɪnˈvɒl ənˌtɛr ə li, -ˌvɒl ənˈtɛər-/ (Show IPA),
involuntariness, noun
2. instinctive. 3. reflex, uncontrolled.
2. intentional.
Synonym Study
1, 3. See automatic. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for involuntarily
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Miss Brown involuntarily took a business attitude, with her arms akimbo, and eyed the boy.

  • The words had slipped from her involuntarily in the spiritual tension of her mood.

    Robert Elsmere Mrs. Humphry Ward
  • Piotr, involuntarily yielding to this movement, also turned round.

    The Created Legend Feodor Sologub
  • She was nearing the gate of Burwood, and involuntarily slackened step.

    Robert Elsmere Mrs. Humphry Ward
  • involuntarily she crushed up the telegram she held in her hand and threw it away from her.

    Sunrise William Black
British Dictionary definitions for involuntarily


/ɪnˈvɒləntərɪ; -trɪ/
carried out without one's conscious wishes; not voluntary; unintentional
(physiol) (esp of a movement or muscle) performed or acting without conscious control
Derived Forms
involuntarily, adverb
involuntariness, noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for involuntarily



mid-15c., from Late Latin involuntarius "involuntary," from in- "not, opposite of" (see in- (1)) + Latin voluntarius (see voluntary). Related: Involuntarily.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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involuntarily in Medicine

involuntary in·vol·un·tar·y (ĭn-vŏl'ən-těr'ē)

  1. Not subject to control of the volition.

  2. Acting or done without or against one's will.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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involuntarily in Science
Not under conscious control. Most of the biological processes in animals that are vital to life, such as contraction of the heart, blood flow, breathing, and digestion, are involuntary and controlled by the autonomic nervous system.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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