will

1 of 3

verb (1)

wəl,
(ə)l,
ᵊl,
ˈwil How to pronounce will (audio)
past would
wəd,
(ə)d,
ˈwu̇d How to pronounce will (audio)
; present singular and plural will

auxiliary verb

1
used to express futurity
tomorrow morning I will wake up in this first-class hotel suiteTennessee Williams
2
used to express desire, choice, willingness, consent, or in negative constructions refusal
no one would take the job
if we will all do our best
will you please stop that racket
3
used to express a command, exhortation, or injunction
you will do as I say, at once
4
used to express frequent, customary, or habitual action or natural tendency or disposition
will get angry over nothing
will work one day and loaf the next
5
used to express probability and often equivalent to the simple verb
that will be the babysitter
6
a
used to express inevitability
accidents will happen
b
used to express determination, insistence, persistence, or willfulness
I have made up my mind to go and go I will
7
used to express capability or sufficiency
the back seat will hold three passengers

transitive verb

: desire, wish
call it what you will

intransitive verb

: to have a wish or desire
whether we will or no
Shall vs. Will: Usage Guide

From the reams of pronouncements written about the distinction between shall and will—dating back as far as the 17th century—it is clear that the rules laid down have never very accurately reflected actual usage. The nationalistic statements of 18th and 19th century British grammarians, who commonly cited the misuses of the Irish, the Scots, and occasionally the Americans, suggest that the traditional rules may have come closest to the usage of southern England. Some modern commentators believe that English usage is still the closest to the traditionally prescribed norms. Most modern commentators allow that will is more common in nearly all uses. The entries for shall and will in this dictionary show current usage.

will

2 of 3

noun

1
: a legal declaration of a person's wishes regarding the disposal of his or her property or estate after death
especially : a written instrument legally executed by which a person makes disposition of his or her estate to take effect after death
2
: desire, wish: such as
a
: disposition, inclination
where there's a will there's a way
3
: the act, process, or experience of willing : volition
4
a
: mental powers manifested as wishing, choosing, desiring, or intending
b
: a disposition to act according to principles or ends
c
: the collective desire of a group
the will of the people
5
: the power of control over one's own actions or emotions
a man of iron will
6
a
: something desired
especially : a choice or determination of one having authority or power
b(1)
[from the phrase our will is which introduces it] : the part of a summons expressing a royal command
(2)
archaic : request, command

will

3 of 3

verb (2)

willed; willing; wills

transitive verb

1
a
: to cause or change by an act of will
believed he could will himself to succeed
also : to try to do so
c
: decree, ordain
Providence wills it
d
: to determine by an act of choice
2
a
: to dispose of by or as if by a will : bequeath
willed his entire estate to his son
b
: to order or direct by a will
willed that her property be divided among her children

intransitive verb

1
: to exercise the will
2
: choose
do as you will
Phrases
if you will
: if you wish to call it that
a kind of preoccupation, or obsession if you willLouis Auchincloss
at will
: as one wishes : as or when it pleases or suits oneself

Examples of will in a Sentence

Noun In her will, she asked that her money be donated to the church. He made a will only days before his death. He has no will of his own. a government that reflects the will of the people
Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
Independent watchdogs have also expressed concerns about India’s judiciary and executive agencies falling in line with Modi’s will by giving favorable verdicts to pro-BJP figures in crucial cases and charging opposition leaders. Astha Rajvanshi, TIME, 12 Apr. 2024 Never mind love: Could good will and favor, the root of gratitude, be bestowed from slave to master? Imani Perry Janina Edwards Krish Seenivasan Devin Murphy, New York Times, 11 Apr. 2024 Fox was the former owner of the home, where Cuevas-Ingram was allegedly held against her will, tortured and killed, Sanguedolce said. Kc Baker, Peoplemag, 10 Apr. 2024 The victim’s boyfriend threatened to kill her, pinning her body down with his against her will for five minutes. Anne Gelhaus, The Mercury News, 9 Apr. 2024 In the sweltering heat of a Philippine afternoon, the world of boxing witnessed a brutal spectacle as Ali and Frazier fought each other for the third and final time in a clash of wills that etched itself into the annals of sporting history. Reuters, CNN, 5 Apr. 2024 Investigators said that Medina held the woman against her will for two and a half months. Stephen Sorace, Fox News, 4 Apr. 2024 Some said writing a will was too complex or too expensive. USA TODAY, 3 Apr. 2024 But his most immediate solutions rely heavily on the collective will of parents to change course — a tacit acknowledgement that societal solutions are unlikely to arrive in time for this generation. Lisa Jarvis, Twin Cities, 30 Mar. 2024
Verb
Curry, who’s trying to will the Warriors to the playoffs in his 10th All-Star season, didn’t rule out a future run for political office in a sit-down interview with CBS last week. Danny Emerman, The Mercury News, 20 Mar. 2024 The details: Over the course of more than 500 pages and hundreds of interviews, the authors explore how an iconic 20th-century comic-book brand pretty much willed itself into becoming this century’s most potent box-office force. Vulture, 21 Nov. 2023 Johnson willed it to his children, including Garrett-Collier’s grandfather. Patrice Gaines, NBC News, 16 Feb. 2024 Crosby practically willed the Penguins to victory last Thursday in their first game without Guentzel, scoring twice in a win at Chicago. Will Graves, USA TODAY, 19 Feb. 2024 Starting your own publication always suggests a desire for connection and community, casting about for fellow-oddballs, willing a readership into existence. Hua Hsu, The New Yorker, 14 Feb. 2024 If Purdy is the selfless ball distributor, Mahomes has been compared with Stephen Curry for his transcendent skill set and is a big admirer of Kobe Bryant in terms of willing a team to victory. Jerry McDonald, The Mercury News, 9 Feb. 2024 On a cold overcast night at the edge of the California Delta, members of the Mount Diablo Astronomical Society tilted their faces toward the darkening sky, willing the growing cloud banks to clear. Joan Morris, The Mercury News, 23 Jan. 2024 That should have been the end of that, but the internet proceeded to do its thing and willed the product into existence. Chris Morris, Fortune, 19 Jan. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'will.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Verb (1)

Middle English (1st & 3rd singular present indicative), from Old English wille (infinitive wyllan); akin to Old High German wili (3rd singular present indicative) wills, Latin velle to wish, will

Noun

Middle English, from Old English willa will, desire; akin to Old English wille

First Known Use

Verb (1)

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

Noun

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Verb (2)

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 2b

Time Traveler
The first known use of will was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near will

Cite this Entry

“Will.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/will. Accessed 17 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition

will

1 of 3 verb
wəl How to pronounce will (audio)
(ə)l,
ᵊl,
(ˈ)wil
past would wəd How to pronounce will (audio)
(ə)d,
(ˈ)wu̇d
; present singular & plural will
1
: wish entry 1 sense 1
call it what you will
2
used as a helping verb to express (1) desire, willingness, or in negative sentences refusal
will you have another
no one would do it
they won't stop
, (2) regular or usual action
will get angry over nothing
, (3) future action
tomorrow we will go shopping
, (4) capacity or ability
the back seat will hold three people
, (5) determination or willfulness
I will go despite the weather
, (6) inevitability
accidents will happen
, or (7) a command
you will do as I say

will

2 of 3 noun
1
: firm desire or determination
the will to win
2
: the desire or choice especially of someone in power or authority
the king's will
3
: the process or power of wishing, choosing, desiring, or intending
4
: the power of control over one's own actions or emotions
has an iron will
5
: a legal document that instructs how a person's property is to be divided after death

will

3 of 3 verb
1
: to leave by or as if by a will : bequeath
willed the house to his daughter
2
: to bring about by an act of choice
willed herself to sleep
3
: order entry 1 sense 2a
it will happen if God wills it
4
: to cause or change by an act of will
willed herself to succeed
5
: to decide on by choice
went wherever they willed

Legal Definition

will

1 of 2 noun
1
: the desire, inclination, or choice of a person or group
2
: the faculty of wishing, choosing, desiring, or intending
3
: a legal declaration of a person's wishes regarding the disposal of his or her property after death
especially : a formally executed written instrument by which a person makes disposition of his or her estate to take effect after death see also codicil, living will, testament
antenuptial will
: a will that was executed by a person prior to that person's marriage and is usually revocable by the court if no provision was made for the person's spouse unless an intention not to make such a provision is manifest
conditional will
: a will intended to take effect upon a certain contingency and usually construed as having absolute force when the language pertaining to the condition suggests a general purpose to make a will
counter will
: mutual will in this entry
holographic will
: a will written out in the hand of the testator and accepted as valid in many states provided it meets statutory requirements (as that no important parts have been altered or replaced in the hand of another and that it has been properly witnessed)
international will
: a will written in any language and executed in accordance with procedures established as a result of an international convention so as to be valid as to form regardless of the location of its execution or the assets, nationality, domicile, or residence of the testator

Note: A properly executed international will is still subject to local probate laws; the validity deriving from adherence to statutory requirements for such wills is purely formal, and a will invalid in respect to such requirements may still be valid under other rules.

joint and mutual will
: a single will jointly executed by two or more persons and containing reciprocal provisions for the disposition of property owned jointly, severally, or in common upon the death of one of them

called also joint and reciprocal will

joint will
: a single will jointly executed by two or more persons and containing their respective wills the execution of a joint will or mutual wills does not create a presumption of a contract not to revoke the will or willsMaine Revised Statutes compare joint and mutual will in this entry

Note: A joint and mutual will is a joint will, but a joint will need not contain reciprocal provisions.

mutual will
: one of two separate wills that share reciprocal provisions for the disposition of property in the event of death by one of the parties a mutual will executed in connection with an agreement based on sufficient consideration is both contractual and testamentary in naturePruss v. Pruss, 514 N.W.2d 335 (1994)

called also counter will, reciprocal will

compare joint and mutual will in this entry
mystic will
in the civil law of Louisiana : a will signed, sealed, witnessed, and notarized according to statutory procedure

called also mystic testament, secret testament

Note: The Louisiana Civil Code requires that for a mystic will to be valid, the will document itself or the envelope containing it must be closed and sealed and thus presented to the notary public and witnesses, or closed and sealed in their presence, and the testator must declare that it contains his or her signed will. The envelope or closed document must be subscribed by the testator, witnesses, and notary public.

nonintervention will \ ˌnän-​ˌin-​tər-​ˈven-​chən-​ \
: a will that provides for an executor to administer the estate without judicial involvement
nuncupative will
: a will allowed in some states that is dictated orally before witnesses and set down in writing within a statutorily specified time period (as 30 days) and that is allowed only for one in imminent peril of death from a terminal illness or from military or maritime service
pour-over will
: a will that provides for a transfer of assets (as the residue of the estate) to a trust (as an inter vivos trust) upon the death of the testator
reciprocal will
: mutual will in this entry

will

2 of 2 transitive verb
1
: to order or direct by will
willed that his money be given to charity
2
: to dispose of by will
willed the house to their children

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