vo·​li·​tion | \ vō-ˈli-shən How to pronounce volition (audio) , və- \

Definition of volition

1 : the power of choosing or determining : will
2 : an act of making a choice or decision also : a choice or decision made

Other Words from volition

volitional \ vō-​ˈlish-​nəl , -​ˈli-​shə-​nᵊl How to pronounce volition (audio) , və-​ \ adjective

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Volition ultimately derives from the Latin verb velle, meaning "to will" or "to wish." (The adjective voluntary descends from the same source.) English speakers borrowed the term from French in the 17th century, using it at first to mean "an act of choosing," a meaning Herman Melville employed in Moby Dick (1851): "Almost simultaneously, with a mighty volition of ungraduated, instantaneous swiftness, the White Whale darted through the weltering sea." Melville's use comes about a century after the word had developed an additional meaning: "the power to choose." This meaning, now the word's dominant use, is found in such sentences as "Members must join of their own volition."

Examples of volition in a Sentence

Tourette's syndrome is a neurological disorder marked by recurrent tics and vocalizations that are beyond the sufferer's volition or control. left the church of her own volition, not because she was excommunicated
Recent Examples on the Web Whether Michelin came of its own volition or was lured by tourism boards, that will matter very little to the restaurateurs and chefs who will earn stars and be thrust into the international culinary limelight. Jeremy Repanich, Robb Report, 8 Nov. 2021 He was believed to have left out of his own volition, the sheriff’s office said when he was first reported missing. Danielle Wallace, Fox News, 4 Nov. 2021 These gentleman could have stayed in the safety zone as most of us would, but instead jumped into the situation, of their own volition, and helped secure the alligator. Naledi Ushe, PEOPLE.com, 17 Aug. 2021 Hot tears began accumulating in my eyes, flowing down my face of their own volition. The New Yorker, 9 Aug. 2021 Most of these monarchs did not leave the throne of their own volition: Up to 16 percent were murdered. Isis Davis-marks, Smithsonian Magazine, 16 July 2021 But other major companies have recently wagered that taking political stances of their own volition is good business. New York Times, 14 July 2021 Two of those coaches, Skiles and Clifford, pretty much quit of their own volition. Mike Bianchi, orlandosentinel.com, 12 July 2021 In this country, scientists, bureaucrats, journalists and executives of Big Tech companies suppressed the story not out of fear of imprisonment or death, but of their own volition, out of ideological or even venal motives. Gerard Baker, WSJ, 7 June 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'volition.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of volition

1605, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for volition

French, from Medieval Latin volition-, volitio, from Latin vol- (stem of velle to will, wish) + -ition-, -itio (as in Latin position-, positio position) — more at will

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The first known use of volition was in 1605

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Last Updated

14 Dec 2021

Cite this Entry

“Volition.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/volition. Accessed 20 Jan. 2022.

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More Definitions for volition



English Language Learners Definition of volition

: the power to make your own choices or decisions


vo·​li·​tion | \ vō-ˈli-shən How to pronounce volition (audio) \

Kids Definition of volition

: the act or power of making choices or decisions without being influenced by other people : will I chose to go on my own volition.


vo·​li·​tion | \ vō-ˈlish-ən, və- How to pronounce volition (audio) \

Medical Definition of volition

1 : an act of making a choice or decision also : a choice or decision made
2 : the power of choosing or determining

More from Merriam-Webster on volition

Nglish: Translation of volition for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of volition for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about volition


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