[ vol-uhn-ter-ee ]
See synonyms for: voluntaryvoluntarily on Thesaurus.com

  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.

  1. of, relating to, or depending on voluntary action: voluntary hospitals.

  2. Law.

    • acting or done without compulsion or obligation.

    • done by intention, and not by accident: voluntary manslaughter.

    • made without valuable consideration: a voluntary settlement.

  3. Physiology. subject to or controlled by the will.

  4. having the power of willing or choosing: a voluntary agent.

  5. 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

First recorded in 1350–1400; Middle English, from 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

synonym study For voluntary

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.

Other words for voluntary

Other words from voluntary

  • vol·un·tar·i·ly [vol-uhn-tair-uh-lee, vol-uhn-ter-], /ˌvɒl ənˈtɛər ə li, ˈvɒl ənˌtɛr-/, adverb
  • vol·un·tar·i·ness, noun
  • non·vol·un·tar·y, adjective
  • sem·i·vol·un·tar·y, adjective
  • un·vol·un·tar·y, adjective

Words Nearby voluntary

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use voluntary in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for voluntary


/ (ˈvɒləntərɪ, -trɪ) /

  1. performed, undertaken, or brought about by free choice, willingly, or without being asked: a voluntary donation

  2. (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

  1. done by, composed of, or functioning with the aid of volunteers: a voluntary association

  2. endowed with, exercising, or having the faculty of willing: a voluntary agent

  3. arising from natural impulse; spontaneous: voluntary laughter

  4. law

    • acting or done without legal obligation, compulsion, or persuasion

    • made without payment or recompense in any form: a voluntary conveyance

  5. (of the muscles of the limbs, neck, etc) having their action controlled by the will

  6. maintained or provided by the voluntary actions or contributions of individuals and not by the state: voluntary schools; the voluntary system

nounplural -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

  1. obsolete a volunteer, esp in an army

Origin of voluntary

C14: from Latin voluntārius, from voluntās will, from velle to wish

Derived forms of voluntary

  • voluntarily, adverb
  • voluntariness, noun

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