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[vol-uh n-ter-ee] /ˈvɒl ənˌtɛr i/
done, made, brought about, undertaken, etc., of one's own accord or by free choice:
a voluntary contribution.
of, relating to, or acting in accord with the will:
voluntary cooperation.
of, relating to, or depending on voluntary action:
voluntary hospitals.
  1. acting or done without compulsion or obligation.
  2. done by intention, and not by accident:
    voluntary manslaughter.
  3. made without valuable consideration:
    a voluntary settlement.
Physiology. subject to or controlled by the will.
having the power of willing or choosing:
a voluntary agent.
proceeding from a natural impulse; spontaneous:
voluntary laughter.
noun, plural voluntaries.
something done voluntarily.
a piece of music, frequently spontaneous and improvised, performed as a prelude to a larger work, especially a piece of organ music performed before, during, or after an office of the church.
Origin of voluntary
1350-1400; Middle English < Latin voluntārius, equivalent to volunt(ās) willingness, inclination (ultimately representing a formation with -tās -ty2 on the present participle of velle to want, wish; see will1, -ent) + -ārius -ary
Related forms
[vol-uh n-tair-uh-lee, vol-uh n-ter-] /ˌvɒl ənˈtɛər ə li, ˈvɒl ənˌtɛr-/ (Show IPA),
voluntariness, noun
nonvoluntary, adjective
semivoluntary, adjective
unvoluntarily, adverb
unvoluntary, adjective
1. considered, purposeful, planned, intended, designed. 7. free, unforced, natural, unconstrained.
Synonym Study
1. See deliberate. 7. Voluntary, spontaneous agree in applying to something that is a natural outgrowth or natural expression arising from circumstances and conditions. Voluntary implies having given previous consideration, or having exercised judgment: a voluntary confession; a voluntary movement; The offer was a voluntary one. Something that is spontaneous arises as if by itself from the nature of the circumstances or condition: spontaneous applause, combustion, expression of admiration. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for voluntary
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • For what is meant by liberty, when applied to voluntary actions?

  • In so far as actions are voluntary, the doctrine is self-evident.

  • A sick bed's a hard place for one who has no kind and voluntary attention.

    The Elm Tree Tales F. Irene Burge Smith
  • Now the voluntary cannot be the involuntary; and if you two come to me and say, 'Then shall we legislate for our city?'

    Laws Plato
  • Homicides may be divided into voluntary and involuntary: and first of involuntary homicide.

    Laws Plato
British Dictionary definitions for voluntary


/ˈvɒləntərɪ; -trɪ/
performed, undertaken, or brought about by free choice, willingly, or without being asked: a voluntary donation
(of persons) serving or acting in a specified function of one's own accord and without compulsion or promise of remuneration: a voluntary social worker
done by, composed of, or functioning with the aid of volunteers: a voluntary association
endowed with, exercising, or having the faculty of willing: a voluntary agent
arising from natural impulse; spontaneous: voluntary laughter
  1. acting or done without legal obligation, compulsion, or persuasion
  2. made without payment or recompense in any form: a voluntary conveyance
(of the muscles of the limbs, neck, etc) having their action controlled by the will
maintained or provided by the voluntary actions or contributions of individuals and not by the state: voluntary schools, the voluntary system
noun (pl) -taries
(music) a composition or improvisation, usually for organ, played at the beginning or end of a church service
work done without compulsion
(obsolete) a volunteer, esp in an army
Derived Forms
voluntarily, adverb
voluntariness, noun
Word Origin
C14: from Latin voluntārius, from voluntās will, from velle to wish
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for voluntary

late 14c. (implied in voluntarily), from Latin voluntarius "of one's free will," from voluntas "will," from the ancient accusative singular present participle of velle "to wish" (see will (v.)). Originally of feelings, later also of actions (mid-15c.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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voluntary in Medicine

voluntary vol·un·tar·y (vŏl'ən-těr'ē)

  1. Arising from or acting on one's own free will.

  2. Normally controlled by or subject to individual volition, as of respiration.

  3. Capable of making choices; having the faculty of will.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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