1. Done or undertaken of one's own free will: a voluntary decision to leave the job.
2. Acting or done willingly and without constraint or expectation of reward: a voluntary hostage; voluntary community work.
3. Normally controlled by or subject to individual volition: voluntary muscle contractions.
4. Capable of making choices; having the faculty of will: "This law of happiness ... resides in the exercise of the active capacities of a voluntary agent" (John Dewey).
5. Supported by contributions or charitable donations rather than by government appropriations: voluntary hospitals.
a. Without legal obligation or consideration: a voluntary conveyance of property.
b. Done intentionally but without premeditation or deliberation, as when under the influence of an intense emotional reaction: voluntary manslaughter.
n. pl. vol·un·tar·ies
a. A short piece of music, often improvised on a solo instrument, played as an introduction to a larger work.
b. A piece for solo organ, often improvised, played before, during, or after a religious service.
2. A volunteer.
[Middle English, from Latin voluntārius, from voluntās, choice, from velle, vol-, to wish; see wel-1 in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
vol′un·tari·ly (-târə-lē) adv.
Synonyms: voluntary, intentional, deliberate, willful, willing
These adjectives mean being or resulting from one's own free will. Voluntary implies the operation of unforced choice: "Ignorance, when it is voluntary, is criminal" (Samuel Johnson).
Intentional applies to something undertaken to further a plan or realize an aim: "I will abstain from all intentional wrongdoing and harm" (Hippocratic Oath).
Deliberate stresses premeditation and full awareness of the character and consequences of one's acts: taking deliberate and decisive action. Willful implies deliberate, headstrong persistence in a self-determined course of action: a willful waste of time. Willing suggests ready or cheerful acquiescence in the proposals or requirements of another: "The first requisite of a good citizen ... is that he shall be able and willing to pull his weight" (Theodore Roosevelt).
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.