vol·​un·​teer | \ ˌvä-lən-ˈtir How to pronounce volunteer (audio) \

Definition of volunteer

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 : a person who voluntarily undertakes or expresses a willingness to undertake a service: such as
a : one who enters into military service voluntarily
b(1) : one who renders a service or takes part in a transaction while having no legal concern or interest
(2) : one who receives a conveyance or transfer of property without giving valuable consideration
2 : a volunteer plant
3 capitalized [Volunteers of America] : a member of a quasi-military religious and philanthropic organization founded in 1896 by Commander and Mrs. Ballington Booth


volunteered; volunteering; volunteers

Definition of volunteer (Entry 2 of 3)

intransitive verb

: to offer oneself as a volunteer volunteered to host the meeting

transitive verb

: to offer or bestow voluntarily volunteer one's services



Definition of volunteer (Entry 3 of 3)

1 : being, consisting of, or engaged in by volunteers a volunteer army busy with volunteer activities
2 : growing spontaneously without direct human control or supervision especially from seeds lost from a previous crop volunteer corn plants

Examples of volunteer in a Sentence

Noun Volunteers are needed to help with the bake sale. The school was built by volunteers. Verb Our son volunteered for military service. He would not volunteer any information about her whereabouts. Adjective volunteer work at the hospital
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The community’s ScareCREW, a volunteer group from the Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce, is holding workshops to make scarecrows from 9 a.m. to noon Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, Sept. 15-17 and Sept. 22-24, at 300 N. Brandon Road. Linda Mcintosh, San Diego Union-Tribune, 9 Sep. 2022 Congregants Diane and her husband, Tom, head up the volunteer Grateful Gardeners group that lovingly tends to the grounds. Shirley Macfarland, cleveland, 8 Sep. 2022 Formed in 2001, MWAGA is a volunteer group of people who have experienced the loss of a limb/limbs and who recognize the importance of participating in friendly competition while promoting the value of golf for rehabilitation. Bob Bong, Chicago Tribune, 6 Sep. 2022 The volunteer group was formed by some of the same students who managed to get Utah’s conservative Legislature to acknowledge the existence of climate change and its looming danger in 2018. Leia Larsen, The Salt Lake Tribune, 4 Sep. 2022 The volunteer dive group found it in the Prosser Creek Reservoir a little more than half an hour into their search. Sophie Reardon, CBS News, 23 Aug. 2022 Local law enforcement said a volunteer dive group, Adventures With Purpose, had notified them about the discovery in Prosser Creek Reservoir, about 35 miles west of Reno. Brittany Shammas, Washington Post, 22 Aug. 2022 Delivering wood to elders throughout the Navajo Nation has been nearly impossible because roads have been washed out due to the flooding, according to Loren Anthony from the volunteer group Chizh for Cheii. Arlyssa D. Becenti, The Arizona Republic, 20 Aug. 2022 Longtime city law director and friend John Clemmons credits Bennett with building the fire department from a volunteer group into one of the best in the region. Sue Kiesewetter, The Enquirer, 6 Aug. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Instead, people volunteer to be elected to represent their neighbors’ interests and help manage the community. Gary Singer, Sun Sentinel, 15 Sep. 2022 Though Lit-X is not an official nonprofit, its members all volunteer their time. Bill Jones, Chicago Tribune, 7 Sep. 2022 Created in 1981 to address the problem, the society’s Road to Recovery program enlists volunteer drivers to transport cancer patients to and from their essential appointments. Emily Alvarenga, San Diego Union-Tribune, 2 Sep. 2022 In the photo: Ryan staffers volunteer at Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida. Diane Herbst, Peoplemag, 31 Aug. 2022 Finland has universal conscription for men, and women can volunteer for military service. Sharon Weinberger, WSJ, 25 Aug. 2022 Two of the participants, Dorian Garrett, 18, and Kareem Holder, 20, now volunteer as community organizers. New York Times, 19 Aug. 2022 Professionals like photographers, jewelry makers or wood makers can volunteer to teach classes with the hope that the kids will hone skills themselves and start their own businesses. Sofia Krusmark, The Arizona Republic, 18 Aug. 2022 Local teenagers volunteer to walk dogs and clean crates. Maggie Menderski, The Courier-Journal, 18 Aug. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective That’s noteworthy for a show based at a high-school auditorium in Litchfield and run by a staff that is almost entirely volunteer, including the show’s star and its producer. Susan Dunne, Hartford Courant, 18 Aug. 2022 Cycling Schools is an all-volunteer, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Shirley Macfarland, cleveland, 22 July 2022 Unfortunately, there’s no major title sponsor now, and that makes everything tougher: paying for permits, paying overtime for police officers, paying for non-volunteer staff. Lori Nickel, Journal Sentinel, 16 June 2022 The fire company is the only one in Carroll County that is completely volunteer run, with no career fire personnel. Dylan Slagle, Baltimore Sun, 23 June 2022 Glauner noted that Fire Station 1, at 4383 Center Road, was built in 1960 with additional bays installed in the 1970s, at a time when the department was all-volunteer. Brian Lisik, cleveland, 15 Feb. 2022 New York’s state guard is all volunteer, as is Ohio’s. NBC News, 3 Feb. 2022 In rural America, 35% of ambulance services are all-volunteer. Steve Hartman, CBS News, 21 Jan. 2022 According to data from the U.S. Fire Administration – a division of the Federal Emergency Management Agency – of the 816 registered fire agencies in Alabama, 79.1% are completely volunteer. John Sharp, al, 30 Dec. 2021 See More

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

First Known Use of volunteer


circa 1600, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1709, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense


1649, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for volunteer


obsolete French voluntaire (now volontaire), from voluntaire, adjective, voluntary, from Old French, from Latin voluntarius

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Time Traveler for volunteer

Time Traveler

The first known use of volunteer was circa 1600

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Statistics for volunteer

Last Updated

16 Sep 2022

Cite this Entry

“Volunteer.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/volunteer. Accessed 26 Sep. 2022.

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More Definitions for volunteer


vol·​un·​teer | \ ˌvä-lən-ˈtir How to pronounce volunteer (audio) \

Kids Definition of volunteer

 (Entry 1 of 3)

: a person who does something by free choice usually with no payment expected or given Volunteers painted the town hall.



Kids Definition of volunteer (Entry 2 of 3)

: relating to or done by volunteers a volunteer fire department


volunteered; volunteering

Kids Definition of volunteer (Entry 3 of 3)

: to offer or give without being asked or forced and usually with no expectation of payment I volunteered my services. Tucker Mouse had volunteered to let them use the drain pipe …— George Selden, The Cricket in Times Square


vol·​un·​teer | \ ˌvä-lən-ˈtir How to pronounce volunteer (audio) \

Legal Definition of volunteer

1 : one that voluntarily undertakes something especially : one who without request, obligation, or an interest pays the debt of another and is denied reimbursement from subrogation
2 : one who receives property without giving valuable consideration

More from Merriam-Webster on volunteer

Nglish: Translation of volunteer for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of volunteer for Arabic Speakers


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