Definition of involuntary in US English:



  • 1Done without will or conscious control.

    ‘she gave an involuntary shudder’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Most seizures are accompanied by an altered state of consciousness and sometimes by involuntary movements.’
    • ‘Huge sobs shuddered throughout her body, causing involuntary convulsions to tremble in her heart.’
    • ‘I felt an involuntary shudder shake my body at the feel of his hot breath against the sensitive hollow of my neck.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘She felt herself give an involuntary shudder and scolded her girlish urges.’
    • ‘‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘I must admit to an involuntary shudder of pride tingling down my spine when I heard her say those words.’
    • ‘An involuntary shudder coursed through the frightened cheetah as he drew himself into a tight ball.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Thus I utter an involuntary shudder at every routinely odd noise that the computer makes.’
    • ‘Last season's cup final experience with Dunfermline still prompts an involuntary smile.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Air Traffic Control can get very shirty about some of my involuntary aerial antics I can tell you.’
    • ‘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 went off into a day punctuated by involuntary shudders of revulsion as the sensations were recalled.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘And we must end the stop-loss and involuntary recall of troops that amounts to nothing more than a back-door draft.’
    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 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.’
      • ‘In her case it has caused involuntary muscle spasms affecting her whole body.’
      • ‘As the disorder progresses, a person with Huntington's develops involuntary jerky movements, muscle weakness and clumsiness.’
      • ‘Muscle cramping is a painful, involuntary muscle spasm that regularly frustrates athletes.’
      • ‘The contractile activity of involuntary muscle is normally regulated by the autonomic (sympathetic and parasympathetic) nervous system.’
      • ‘This smooth muscle is the involuntary sphincter of the posterior urethra in the male.’
      • ‘He wrote the movement off as an involuntary muscle spasm.’
      • ‘Smooth muscles are involuntary and located inside internal organs such as the stomach and intestines.’
      • ‘The involuntary muscles are controlled by structures deep within the brain and the upper part of the spinal cord called the brain stem.’
      • ‘The airways (trachea, bronchi, bronchioles) are surrounded by a type of involuntary muscle known as smooth muscle.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Though they are called involuntary muscles, they are great devices that control the urine from coming out any time.’
      • ‘Opiate drugs can help relieve pain, and the drugs clonazepam and sodium valproate may help relieve involuntary muscle jerks.’
      • ‘Overexposure can lead to symptoms of dizziness, respiratory problems, involuntary muscle twitching and even paralysis.’
      • ‘The immediate cause of vaginismus is involuntary spasm of the muscles around the lower one third of the vagina.’
      • ‘Cervical dystonia is a neurologic movement disorder characterized by involuntary muscle contractions that force the head and neck into abnormal and sometimes painful positions.’
      • ‘Birds that contract avian botulism lose involuntary muscle control, including eyelid function, have clenched feet, and can't hold up their heads.’
      • ‘Instead the acetylcholine accumulates and affects both voluntary an involuntary muscles.’
      • ‘The hand movements were a result of nervous system feedback, the tongue of the creature was some how triggering involuntary muscle spasms.’
      • ‘He cried out with the next spasm as the now unbearable pain in his right leg grew worse with the involuntary muscle clenching.’
  • 2Done against someone's will; compulsory.

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