noun, plural vol·un·tar·ies.

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 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. 2019

Examples from the Web for voluntary

Contemporary Examples of voluntary

Historical Examples of voluntary

  • 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

  • Some actions are intermediate between the voluntary and involuntary.



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



British Dictionary definitions for voluntary



performed, undertaken, or brought about by free choice, willingly, or without being askeda voluntary donation
(of persons) serving or acting in a specified function of one's own accord and without compulsion or promise of remunerationa voluntary social worker
done by, composed of, or functioning with the aid of volunteersa voluntary association
endowed with, exercising, or having the faculty of willinga voluntary agent
arising from natural impulse; spontaneousvoluntary laughter
  1. acting or done without legal obligation, compulsion, or persuasion
  2. made without payment or recompense in any forma 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 statevoluntary schools; the voluntary system

noun plural -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 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 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

Medicine definitions for voluntary




Arising from or acting on one's own free will.
Normally controlled by or subject to individual volition, as of respiration.
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.