Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adjective Happening or arising without apparent external cause; self-generated.
  • adjective Arising from a natural inclination or impulse and not from forethought or prompting.
  • adjective Unconstrained and unstudied in manner or behavior.
  • adjective Growing without cultivation or human labor.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • Proceeding from a conscious or unconscious internal impulse; occurring or done without the intervention of external causes; in a restricted sense, springing from one's own desire or volition, apart from any external suggestion or incitement.
  • Growing naturally, without previous human care.
  • Growing as native; indigenous.
  • In biology, instinctive or automatic, as some actions of animals which depend upon no external stimulus and are performed without apparent motive or purpose; uninfluenced by external conditions, as a change in structural character. Compare spontaneity, 2.
  • Synonyms Willing, etc. (see voluntary), instinctive, unbidden.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • adjective Proceeding from natural feeling, temperament, or disposition, or from a native internal proneness, readiness, or tendency, without constraint.
  • adjective Proceeding from, or acting by, internal impulse, energy, or natural law, without external force
  • adjective Produced without being planted, or without human labor.
  • adjective combustion produced in a substance by the evolution of heat through the chemical action of its own elements; as, the spontaneous combustion of waste matter saturated with oil.
  • adjective (Biol.) See under Generation.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • adjective Self generated; happening without any apparent external cause.
  • adjective Done by one's own free choice, or without planning.
  • adjective proceeding from natural feeling or native tendency without external constraint
  • adjective arising from a momentary impulse
  • adjective controlled and directed internally : self-active : spontaneous movement characteristic of living things
  • adjective produced without being planted or without human labor : indigenous
  • adjective not apparently contrived or manipulated : natural
  • adjective Random.
  • adjective Sudden, without warning.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adjective said or done without having been planned or written in advance
  • adjective happening or arising without apparent external cause

Etymologies

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[From Late Latin spontāneus, of one's own accord, from Latin sponte; see (s)pen- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Late Latin spontaneus, from Latin sponte (sua) ("of one's free will, voluntarily").

Examples

  • Thus, the term spontaneous order may be used to refer strictly to voluntary orders — that is, forms of social coordination which emerge from the free actions of many different people, as opposed to coordination that arises from some people being forced to do what other people tell them to do.

    Women and the Invisible Fist

  • Thus, the term spontaneous order may be used to refer strictly to voluntary orders — that is, forms of social coordination which emerge from the free actions of many different people, as opposed to coordination that arises from some people being forced to do what other people tell them to do.

    Rad Geek People’s Daily – 2008 – May – 16

  • Darwin, I beliieve used the term spontaneous variations.

    Dembski, secret handshakes and Darwinian theory - The Panda's Thumb

  • The term spontaneous abortion is defined in the “Management of Spontaneous Abortion” by Dr. Greibel, Dr Halvorsen, Dr Golemon, and Dr. Day.

    Do they really believe that abortion is murder?

  • Representatives of the state government say the state doesn't back the group, which they call a spontaneous movement by people defending themselves from the Naxalites.

    Indian Rights Activist, Freed on Bail, Vows to Continue Work

  • You know, we have a lot of new volunteers who have -- they're just what we call spontaneous volunteers.

    CNN Transcript Sep 24, 2005

  • You know, we have a lot of new volunteers who have -- they're just what we call spontaneous volunteers.

    CNN Transcript Sep 24, 2005

  • We think that when we deal with medicine in brain first, the real source of what he calls spontaneous healing is brain chemistry, and that when we change brain chemistry, we change the mind and facilitate these spontaneous healings and transformations of human health.

    CNN Transcript Feb 16, 2000

  • "One thing sure," continued the farmer, a little uneasily, "that fire must have been caused by what they call spontaneous combustion; or else somebody set it on purpose."

    Boy Scouts on a Long Hike Or, To the Rescue in the Black Water Swamps

  • The immediate force which works this change, the life principle of things, is, in the case of organic beings, a subtle something which we call spontaneous variation.

    The Soul of the Far East

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