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From Middle English *voluntarie, from Old French volontaire, from Latin voluntārius (willing, of free will), from voluntās (will, choice, desire), from volēns, present participle of volo (to will).



voluntary (comparative more voluntary, superlative most voluntary)

  1. Done, given, or acting of one's own free will.
    • N. W. Taylor
      That sin or guilt pertains exclusively to voluntary action is the true principle of orthodoxy.
    • Alexander Pope
      She fell to lust a voluntary prey.
  2. Done by design or intention; intentional.
    If a man accidentally kills another by lopping a tree, it is not voluntary manslaughter.
  3. Working or done without payment.
  4. Endowed with the power of willing.
    • 1594, Hooker, Richard, “Book 1”, in Of the Lawes of Ecclesiastical Politie[1], London: John Walthoe et al, published 1782, page 5:
      [] God did not work as a necessary, but a voluntary agent, intending before-hand, and decreeing with himself, that which did outwardly proceed from him.
  5. Of or relating to voluntarism.
    a voluntary church, in distinction from an established or state church



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voluntary (comparative more voluntary, superlative most voluntary)

  1. (obsolete) Voluntarily.
    • 1590, Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, III.4:
      And all that els was pretious and deare, / The sea unto him voluntary brings [...].


voluntary (plural voluntaries)

  1. (music) A short piece of music, often having improvisation, played on a solo instrument.
  2. A volunteer.
  3. A supporter of voluntarism; a voluntarist.