vol·​un·​tary | \ ˈvä-lən-ˌter-ē How to pronounce voluntary (audio) \

Definition of voluntary

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : proceeding from the will or from one's own choice or consent a voluntary action voluntary cooperation
2 : unconstrained by interference : self-determining a voluntary participant
3 law
a : done by design or intention : intentional was convicted of voluntary manslaughter
b : acting or done of one's own free will without valuable consideration or legal obligation a voluntary conveyance
4 : of, relating to, subject to, or regulated by the will voluntary muscle movements voluntary behavior
5 : having power of free choice a voluntary agent
6 : provided or supported by voluntary action a voluntary institution/organization


plural voluntaries

Definition of voluntary (Entry 2 of 2)

1a : a prefatory often extemporized musical piece
b : an improvisatory organ piece played before, during, or after a religious service
2 : one who participates voluntarily

Other Words from voluntary


voluntarily adverb
voluntariness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for voluntary


voluntary, intentional, deliberate, willing mean done or brought about of one's own will. voluntary implies freedom and spontaneity of choice or action without external compulsion. a voluntary confession intentional stresses an awareness of an end to be achieved. the intentional concealment of vital information deliberate implies full consciousness of the nature of one's act and its consequences. deliberate acts of sabotage willing implies a readiness and eagerness to accede to or anticipate the wishes of another. willing obedience

Examples of voluntary in a Sentence

Adjective Participation in the program is completely voluntary. He was charged with voluntary manslaughter. the voluntary muscles that control urination
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective TaskRabbit rolled out a remote-first strategy in April, after initially allowing employees to work from the office on a voluntary basis. Danielle Abril, Washington Post, 25 May 2022 Racial Diversity Awareness Day has been held on a voluntary basis every year since at least 2017. Jennifer Edwards Baker, The Enquirer, 18 May 2022 The order is a change from last week, when the department authorized non-emergency employees to leave on a voluntary basis amid the shutdown in the city of 26 million, China’s biggest since the virus first emerged in Wuhan in late 2019. NBC News, 12 Apr. 2022 The committee in January had asked Ms. Trump to testify on a voluntary basis, one of a handful of individuals whom the panel publicly sought without issuing a subpoena. Siobhan Hughes, WSJ, 5 Apr. 2022 And many companies already provide such information on a voluntary basis and a slew of non-profit organizations provide frameworks for companies to do so. Justin Worland, Time, 22 Mar. 2022 The Treasury Department has also been moving funds within and between states on a voluntary basis, including the shift of $23 million from the Arkansas Department of Human Services to Benton and Washington counties in January. Tess Vrbin, Arkansas Online, 19 Mar. 2022 Cleveland’s spring training facility was available to formerly locked out players on a voluntary basis on Friday. Paul Hoynes, cleveland, 12 Mar. 2022 For now, most Google staffers have the option to come in to the office on a voluntary basis; last week, according to the company, 30% of employees in the Bay Area worked in the office. Todd Spangler, Variety, 24 Feb. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun In Libya, Muammar Gaddafi voluntary gave up his nuclear program, but that didn’t stop the United States from actively supporting rebels who toppled his regime and savagely killed him. Michael A. Cohen, The New Republic, 25 Jan. 2022 Virginia enacted legislation in 2021 to establish an auto-IRA savings program and the New York state legislature has passed legislation that would amend their law to switch from a voluntary to a mandatory auto-IRA program statewide. Dan Doonan, Forbes, 1 Sep. 2021 Danario Green was optimistic about returning to work as a JetBlue flight attendant after taking a five-month voluntary leave earlier in the pandemic. Natalie B. Compton, Anchorage Daily News, 23 Nov. 2020 The actual number of layoffs and furloughs may decrease for both American and United before Oct. 1 because of union agreements and other voluntary buyout negotiations, according to company memos. Anna Kramer, SFChronicle.com, 4 Aug. 2020 For players, that means a certain level of accomplishment or desire for a new contract can be reason to skip the voluntaries. Sam Mellinger, kansascity.com, 20 June 2017 See More

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

First Known Use of voluntary


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4


1598, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for voluntary


Middle English, from Anglo-French voluntarie, from Latin voluntarius, from voluntas will, from velle to will, wish — more at will

Learn More About voluntary

Time Traveler for voluntary

Time Traveler

The first known use of voluntary was in the 15th century

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near voluntary



voluntary affidavit

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for voluntary

Last Updated

28 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Voluntary.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/voluntary. Accessed 28 May. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for voluntary


vol·​un·​tary | \ ˈvä-lən-ˌter-ē How to pronounce voluntary (audio) \

Kids Definition of voluntary

1 : done, given, or acting of free choice a voluntary confession a voluntary participant
2 : done or acting with no expectation of payment a voluntary job
3 : relating to or controlled by the will voluntary muscle movements

Other Words from voluntary

voluntarily \ ˌvä-​lən-​ˈter-​ə-​lē \ adverb participate voluntarily

Choose the Right Synonym for voluntary

voluntary, intentional, and deliberate mean done or brought about by choice. voluntary is used of an act that results from freedom of will. Joining the club is voluntary. It can also be used of an act that is controlled by the will. Blinking the eyes can be a voluntary movement. intentional is used of something that is done for a reason and only after some thought. Her neglect of the task was intentional. deliberate is used of an act that is done purposefully and with full understanding of the likely results. It was a deliberate insult.


vol·​un·​tary | \ ˈväl-ən-ˌter-ē How to pronounce voluntary (audio) \

Medical Definition of voluntary

1 : proceeding from the will or from one's own choice or consent
2 : of, relating to, subject to, or regulated by the will voluntary behavior

Other Words from voluntary

voluntarily adverb


vol·​un·​tary | \ ˈvä-lən-ˌter-ē How to pronounce voluntary (audio) \

Legal Definition of voluntary

1a : proceeding from one's own free choice or consent rather than as the result of duress, coercion, or deception a voluntary statement
b : not compelled by law : done as a matter of choice or agreement voluntary arbitration
c : made freely and with an understanding of the consequences a voluntary plea of guilty
2 : done by design or intention
3 : made without valuable consideration or for nominal consideration a voluntary conveyance

Other Words from voluntary

voluntarily \ ˌvä-​lən-​ˈter-​ə-​lē \ adverb
voluntariness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on voluntary

Nglish: Translation of voluntary for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of voluntary for Arabic Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Which Word Does Not Belong?

  • one green toy robot amidst many red toy robots
  • Which of these words does not mean "nonsense"?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!