Definition of involution in US English:



  • 1Physiology
    The shrinkage of an organ in old age or when inactive, e.g. of the uterus after childbirth.

    • ‘Gradual involution of the Bartholin's glands can occur by the time a woman reaches 30 years of age.’
    • ‘Short dry periods provide insufficient time for regeneration and involution of mammary gland tissue.’
    • ‘This response is likely due to an increase in the amount of time required for uterine involution for primiparous cows but also may be related to maternal bonding between the cow and calf.’
    • ‘Routine sections revealed normal thymic tissue with fatty involution and no evidence of tumor.’
    • ‘As gastrulation proceeds, the region of involution spreads laterally and vegetally so that involution involves the vegetal endoderm and so forms a circle around a plug of yolky cells.’
  • 2Mathematics
    A function, transformation, or operator that is equal to its inverse, i.e. which gives the identity when applied to itself.

    • ‘The book also treats von Staudt's theory of complex elements as defined by real involutions.’
    • ‘He is also remembered by those working in algebraic geometry for his discovery of an involution, now named after him.’
    • ‘The manner of their joining reflects the involutions of a Mobius strip.’
    • ‘In his text Traité de géométrie in 1852 Chasles discusses cross ratio, pencils and involutions, all notions which he introduced.’
    • ‘This work contains fundamental ideas of projective geometry such as the cross-ratio, perspective, involution and the circular points at infinity.’
  • 3formal The process of involving or complicating, or the state of being involved or complicated.

    ‘periods of artistic involution’
    • ‘Three years ago, disturbed by the politics and social involution of a mere work-for-the-dole scheme, I delivered a paper in Sydney entitled ‘There is no such thing as a welfare economy’.’
    • ‘Out of its own impulse and initiative of the Spirit, a process of involutions occurred for some limited purpose, the precise nature of which is beyond human comprehension.’
    • ‘Rejecting ‘one-word-after-another word English’, Foster Wallace's idiosyncratic prose captures the ‘internal head-speed’ of those rapidly losing the plot, mimicking the loopy narratives of their self-defeating involutions.’
    • ‘And the involutions of plot become if anything more elaborate than in the first half of the poem.’
    • ‘All the familiar elements - the deliberate, stately percussion; the elongated, cyclical riffs; the snarled lyrical tautologies and abstruse involutions - are all intact.’
    • ‘In the London ‘Rubaiyat’, the ornamentation characterised by scroll-like involutions of ‘A Book of Verse’ is largely replaced by overlapping elliptical and oval shapes formed from the intersections of vine branches.’
    • ‘In ‘Mister Squishy,’ the story about the focus group, the main character, Terry Schmidt, is strewn about in this medium, a strange involution of tone and form.’
    • ‘The result is an irreversible and progressive process of involution as death approaches.’
    • ‘Kubrick's movie, more English than American, more comedy than tragedy, is subtle in its imagery yet comes nowhere near capturing the literary involutions, moral outrage, and the passion of Nabokov's novel.’
    • ‘Stephen Kent, of the University of Alberta examines the revolutions and involutions of this change in his book From Slogan Chanters to Mantra Chanters.’
    • ‘Urban annotation thus becomes a process of involution, an intensive rather than an extensive phenomenon: a potential anti-sprawl.’
    • ‘And like, a dear friend of mine, a lawyer had said, ‘that we should be involved in the process of evolution and not in the process of involution.’’
    • ‘In other words, it is a process of involution with Puram Shiva getting involved increasing with each step and descending to the stage where it look as physical.’
    complexity, intricacy, complication, twist, turn, entanglement, contortion
    View synonyms


Late Middle English (in the sense (‘part) curling inwards’): from Latin involutio(n-), from involvere (see involve).