[ vol-uh n-tuh-riz-uh m ]
/ ˈvɒl ən təˌrɪz əm /


Philosophy. any theory that regards will as the fundamental agency or principle, in metaphysics, epistemology, or psychology.
the principle or practice of supporting churches, schools, hospitals, etc., by voluntary contributions or aid instead of relying on government assistance.
any policy or practice based on voluntary action.

Origin of voluntarism

First recorded in 1830–40; voluntar(y) + -ism
Related formsvol·un·ta·rist, noun, adjectivevol·un·ta·ris·tic, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for voluntarism

British Dictionary definitions for voluntarism


/ (ˈvɒləntəˌrɪzəm) /


philosophy the theory that the will rather than the intellect is the ultimate principle of reality
a doctrine or system based on voluntary participation in a course of action
the belief that the state, government, and the law should not interfere with the procedures of collective bargaining and of trade union organization
another name for voluntaryism
Derived Formsvoluntarist, noun, adjectivevoluntaristic, adjective
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 voluntarism



1838, in philosophy, from voluntary + -ism. As the theory or principal of using voluntary action rather than coercion (in politics, etc.), from 1924, American English (Voluntaryism in this sense is recorded from 1883).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper