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 Fans then watched as Wilson appeared to scurry around the infield, as if of its own volition. Ryan Gajewski, The Hollywood Reporter, 15 Apr. 2022 Also unclear is whether a business could decide of its own volition to conduct vaccine verification when it’s not required as a trade-off for allowing customers to go maskless. Luke Money, Los Angeles Times, 22 Feb. 2022 What happens in the space between volition and action? Kelly Clancy, Wired, 10 Jan. 2022 Ivanka’s husband, Jared Kushner, who was also a senior adviser to Trump while in office and also in communication with him on January 6, has already talked to the committee—and, like his wife, did so of his own volition. Daniel Strauss, The New Republic, 8 Apr. 2022 Whereas reports originally claimed that Bordeaux chose to exit the show on her own volition, the actress took to her Instagram to clarify that she was actually fired over the matter. Essence, 5 Feb. 2022 Sports teams did not disappear on their own volition or by unseen forces. Will Nicoll, Forbes, 22 Jan. 2022 In this context, getting vaccinated has meant acting on our own volition. Monica Potts, The Atlantic, 21 July 2021 Law enforcement leaders and many protesters had expressed hope that Saturday night would end more peacefully than Friday, citing Thursday's experience, when law enforcement held off on any dispersal tactics and protesters left on their own volition. Ryan Faircloth, Star Tribune, 17 Apr. 2021 See More

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.

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

4 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Volition.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/volition. Accessed 25 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for volition


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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