1. done, made, brought about, undertaken, etc., of one's own accord or by free choice: a voluntary contribution.
  2. of, relating to, or acting in accord with the will: voluntary cooperation.
  3. of, relating to, or depending on voluntary action: voluntary hospitals.
  4. Law.
    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.
  5. Physiology. subject to or controlled by the will.
  6. having the power of willing or choosing: a voluntary agent.
  7. proceeding from a natural impulse; spontaneous: voluntary laughter.
noun, plural vol·un·tar·ies.
  1. something done voluntarily.
  2. 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 formsvol·un·tar·i·ly [vol-uhn-tair-uh-lee, vol-uhn-ter-] /ˌvɒl ənˈtɛər ə li, ˈvɒl ənˌtɛr-/, adverbvol·un·tar·i·ness, nounnon·vol·un·tar·y, adjectivesem·i·vol·un·tar·y, adjectiveun·vol·un·tar·i·ly, adverbun·vol·un·tar·y, adjective

Synonyms for voluntary

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.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for unvoluntarily

Historical Examples of unvoluntarily

  • In order to find out whether he were really drunk, the Major pinched himself so hard that he unvoluntarily uttered a cry.

British Dictionary definitions for unvoluntarily


  1. performed, undertaken, or brought about by free choice, willingly, or without being askeda voluntary donation
  2. (of persons) serving or acting in a specified function of one's own accord and without compulsion or promise of remunerationa voluntary social worker
  3. done by, composed of, or functioning with the aid of volunteersa voluntary association
  4. endowed with, exercising, or having the faculty of willinga voluntary agent
  5. arising from natural impulse; spontaneousvoluntary laughter
  6. law
    1. acting or done without legal obligation, compulsion, or persuasion
    2. made without payment or recompense in any forma voluntary conveyance
  7. (of the muscles of the limbs, neck, etc) having their action controlled by the will
  8. maintained or provided by the voluntary actions or contributions of individuals and not by the statevoluntary schools; the voluntary system
noun plural -taries
  1. music a composition or improvisation, usually for organ, played at the beginning or end of a church service
  2. work done without compulsion
  3. obsolete a volunteer, esp in an army
Derived Formsvoluntarily, adverbvoluntariness, noun

Word Origin for voluntary

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

Word Origin and History for unvoluntarily



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

unvoluntarily in Medicine


  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.