Definition of involuntary in English:



  • 1Done without will or conscious control.

    ‘she gave an involuntary shudder’
    • ‘And we must end the stop-loss and involuntary recall of troops that amounts to nothing more than a back-door draft.’
    • ‘There would be evidence that the killing happened when he was asleep or in ‘a confusional arousal state’ which could make the acts involuntary and give Lowe a defence of automatism.’
    • ‘I felt an involuntary shudder shake my body at the feel of his hot breath against the sensitive hollow of my neck.’
    • ‘An involuntary shudder coursed through the frightened cheetah as he drew himself into a tight ball.’
    • ‘The complexity of some symptoms often confuses family members, friends, teachers, and employers who may find it hard to believe that the actions or vocal utterances are involuntary.’
    • ‘Huge sobs shuddered throughout her body, causing involuntary convulsions to tremble in her heart.’
    • ‘An involuntary shudder racked her body, but she stood rigid, trying to appear as if she lacked the fear that she felt in her heart.’
    • ‘I gave an involuntary shudder at the thought of what had happened last night, and I felt Adam's steadying hand on my back as we walked out into the hallway.’
    • ‘I went off into a day punctuated by involuntary shudders of revulsion as the sensations were recalled.’
    • ‘Theirs can be described as involuntary migration; they ended up in various places where they continue working on films that contribute to the big project of diasporic Balkan cinema.’
    • ‘Most seizures are accompanied by an altered state of consciousness and sometimes by involuntary movements.’
    • ‘His consumptive, rail thin appearance prompts a collective involuntary gasp, not just because he looks as though his legs might buckle at any second but because the resemblance to his legendary grandfather is almost eerie.’
    • ‘Last season's cup final experience with Dunfermline still prompts an involuntary smile.’
    • ‘I must admit to an involuntary shudder of pride tingling down my spine when I heard her say those words.’
    • ‘The commission will also be able to arrange for an independent review by a Mental Health Tribunal of all decisions to detain patients on an involuntary basis and each decision to extend the duration of such detentions.’
    • ‘She felt herself give an involuntary shudder and scolded her girlish urges.’
    • ‘Thus I utter an involuntary shudder at every routinely odd noise that the computer makes.’
    • ‘Air Traffic Control can get very shirty about some of my involuntary aerial antics I can tell you.’
    • ‘You may find him strident, irritating or humourless, but fact of the matter is the involuntary shudder running up your back after that line is real enough.’
    • ‘‘I think I'll be able to handle it,’ she said, but the involuntary shudder she did indicated she wasn't so positive about it.’
    reflex, reflexive, automatic, knee-jerk, mechanical, unconditioned
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1(especially of muscles or nerves) concerned in bodily processes that are not under the control of the will.
      • ‘The involuntary muscles are controlled by structures deep within the brain and the upper part of the spinal cord called the brain stem.’
      • ‘He cried out with the next spasm as the now unbearable pain in his right leg grew worse with the involuntary muscle clenching.’
      • ‘In her case it has caused involuntary muscle spasms affecting her whole body.’
      • ‘The hand movements were a result of nervous system feedback, the tongue of the creature was some how triggering involuntary muscle spasms.’
      • ‘Cervical dystonia is a neurologic movement disorder characterized by involuntary muscle contractions that force the head and neck into abnormal and sometimes painful positions.’
      • ‘He wrote the movement off as an involuntary muscle spasm.’
      • ‘Though they are called involuntary muscles, they are great devices that control the urine from coming out any time.’
      • ‘This smooth muscle is the involuntary sphincter of the posterior urethra in the male.’
      • ‘Muscle cramping is a painful, involuntary muscle spasm that regularly frustrates athletes.’
      • ‘Smooth muscles are involuntary and located inside internal organs such as the stomach and intestines.’
      • ‘As the disorder progresses, a person with Huntington's develops involuntary jerky movements, muscle weakness and clumsiness.’
      • ‘Overexposure can lead to symptoms of dizziness, respiratory problems, involuntary muscle twitching and even paralysis.’
      • ‘The muscles of the heart and some other involuntary muscles are also affected in some forms of MD, and a few forms involve other organs, as well.’
      • ‘The contractile activity of involuntary muscle is normally regulated by the autonomic (sympathetic and parasympathetic) nervous system.’
      • ‘The immediate cause of vaginismus is involuntary spasm of the muscles around the lower one third of the vagina.’
      • ‘Birds that contract avian botulism lose involuntary muscle control, including eyelid function, have clenched feet, and can't hold up their heads.’
      • ‘Heart muscles and some other involuntary muscles are also affected in some forms of muscular dystrophy, and a few forms involve other organs as well.’
      • ‘Opiate drugs can help relieve pain, and the drugs clonazepam and sodium valproate may help relieve involuntary muscle jerks.’
      • ‘The airways (trachea, bronchi, bronchioles) are surrounded by a type of involuntary muscle known as smooth muscle.’
      • ‘Instead the acetylcholine accumulates and affects both voluntary an involuntary muscles.’
  • 2Done against someone's will; compulsory.

    ‘a policy of involuntary repatriation’
    • ‘It appears that they exerted undue coercion on his command to extract involuntary waivers from soldiers who did not want to redeploy overseas.’
    • ‘The commission will introduce tribunals to review automatically the detention of involuntary patients in November.’
    • ‘In order to cure an epidemic there must be involuntary, mandatory and humane treatment of people who are engaged in abuse.’
    • ‘Similarly, a parallel slope envisaging a slide from physicians performing voluntary euthanasia to engaging in involuntary euthanasia requires empirical support.’
    • ‘World War Two caused a significant interruption in Orlova's work by imposing an involuntary career-break at a time when she was at her most active.’
    • ‘Neither coercion nor involuntary suffering can be attributed to Christ's atoning death on the cross.’
    • ‘In the unlikely event of this argument being accepted, Betty would still be guilty of involuntary manslaughter on the constructive basis.’
    • ‘An extended winter break shutdown is in the works (although a proposal to require involuntary furloughs has been dropped).’
    • ‘Its imperialistic court was armed with the power of roping in all sorts of unwilling or involuntary litigants all over Australia.’
    • ‘It imposes an involuntary moratorium on a third superdistrict for two seasons.’
    • ‘It mandates a form of involuntary servitude expressly prohibited by the 13th amendment to the US Constitution.’
    • ‘The draft law also gives the government the right to decree ‘labor emergencies,’ granting it the right to impose involuntary retirement and layoff of public employees.’
    • ‘Given their defense of involuntary treatment as not only justified but morally mandatory, psychiatrists seem weirdly reluctant to acknowledge their role in it.’
    • ‘The Iranian government, until now, has refused to accept their return as part of a general policy of resisting involuntary repatriations.’
    • ‘Slavery signified, of course, involuntary migration and coerced labor.’
    • ‘It is an important matter if more people are requiring involuntary admission.’
    • ‘The involuntary extraction of data from humans across borders requires a review of standards of privacy and data protection laws.’
    • ‘It is also required that involuntary voiding occur at least twice a week for at least three consecutive months and that it be a source of considerable distress for the child.’
    • ‘Children should be required to support their aging parents, require students to do involuntary volunteer work, make voting mandatory - that sort of thing.’
    • ‘The judge reviewed the major constitutional cases dealing with the state's power to impose involuntary treatment.’
    compulsory, obligatory, mandatory, forced, coerced, coercive, compelled, exacted, imposed, demanded, required, constrained, ordained, prescribed
    View synonyms