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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. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for involuntary
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • It was as though the involuntary kiss had lurched him forward into a futurity of misery.

    Thoroughbreds W. A. Fraser
  • A kind of net for effecting an involuntary change of environment.

    The Devil's Dictionary Ambrose Bierce
  • The parson wrung his hands in an involuntary gesture of appeal.

    Tiverton Tales Alice Brown
  • She gave an involuntary look at the barn, where David was whistling a merry stave.

    Tiverton Tales Alice Brown
  • Again he had to control the involuntary movement of his left arm.

British Dictionary definitions for involuntary


/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 involuntary

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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involuntary 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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involuntary 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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