verb (1)
\ wəl, (ə)l, ᵊl, ˈwil How to pronounce will (audio) \
past would\ wəd , (ə)d , ˈwu̇d How to pronounce would (audio) \; present singular and plural will

Definition of will

 (Entry 1 of 3)

auxiliary verb

1 used to express futurity tomorrow morning I will wake up in this first-class hotel suite— Tennessee Williams
2 used to express desire, choice, willingness, consent, or in negative constructions refusal no one would take the jobif we will all do our bestwill 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 nothingwill work one day and loaf the next
5 used to express probability and often equivalent to the simple verb that will be the babysitter
6a 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
if you will
: if you wish to call it that a kind of preoccupation, or obsession if you will— Louis Auchincloss


\ ˈwil How to pronounce will (audio) \

Definition of will (Entry 2 of 3)

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
4a : 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
6a : 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
at will
: as one wishes : as or when it pleases or suits oneself


verb (2)
\ ˈwil How to pronounce will (audio) \
willed; willing; wills

Definition of will (Entry 3 of 3)

transitive verb

1a : 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
2a : 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

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Shall vs. Will: Usage Guide

Verb (1)

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.

Examples of will in a Sentence


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
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First Known Use of will

Verb (1)

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


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

History and Etymology for will

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


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

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Statistics for will

Last Updated

12 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for will

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

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More Definitions for will



Financial Definition of will

What It Is

A will is a legal document that indicates how a person wants his or her estate (money and property) to be distributed after death. Wills must expressly state to whom the will belongs and be signed, dated and include the signatures of at least two witnesses. A will also may describe any wishes for funeral and burial arrangements and may designate guardians for minor children.

How It Works

A man who has created a will is called the testator; a woman is called a testarix. However, testator is often used in reference to both genders.

When the testator dies, the executor, who is named in the will, administers the distribution of the estate to the beneficiaries (a beneficiary is any person or organization that receives the assets after the testator's death). The executor's job also includes paying any bills and taxes owed by the estate as well as locating and protecting the assets until they are distributed. An executor often receives payment for his or her services, and the payment varies from state to state.

Many people hire an attorney to draw up a will, but many states (though not all states) also recognize holographic wills, which are simply created in the testator's own handwriting on a regular piece of paper (holographic wills are more frequently contested, however).

A testator can change a will at any time, for any reason, and should keep the original copy of the will in a safe place. A copy also should be given to the executor. There is some controversy over whether banks may seal a safe-deposit box after a renter's death, so consult a professional regarding storage of this important document.

If one does not have a will before death, the state's intestate succession rules determine how a person's assets are distributed. These rules vary by state. Normally, a person's spouse and children receive the estate first, then members of extended family. If there are no surviving family members, the estate may pass to the state.

Why It Matters

A will is central to a person's estate planning. In most cases, people create wills to protect the assets they have worked hard for and to ensure they are passed to appropriate individuals or organizations.

However, court procedures, called probate, are often required to legally pass assets from a testator to beneficiaries because the testator is no longer around to sign deeds and other documents necessary to actually transfer the assets. In probate, a judge must validate the will and then issue a court order to distribute the assets. The probate process can last from six months to two years or more and can cost from 4% to more than 9% of the gross value of the estate, depending on the laws of the testator's home state. Everything in a will becomes public record after it is probated.

Many people choose to create trusts in an attempt to prevent their estate from going through the probate process. In general, the testator transfers his or her assets to a trust while alive, and the trust -- which is usually controlled by the testator -- in turn designates the beneficiaries. This often avoids the need for probate and can also reduce estate taxes in certain circumstances. There are many kinds of trusts and trust structures, and a professional estate planner should be consulted when considering this option.

For more details on trusts, read our article Shield Your Hard-Earned Money from Uncle Sam With a Trust.

It is important to keep a will up-to-date because life events, such as marriages, divorces, deaths, separations, moving, significant changes in assets or the birth of a child often change a testator's needs or wishes. It is also important to note that titles to assets (joint tenancy, joint tenancy with right of survivorship, etc.) frequently affect how assets are transferred, as do the existence of businesses, internationally held assets, life partners, ex-spouses and blended families.

Estate planning is a complex subject, and it is of particular importance to consult an estate-planning specialist when considering how to distribute assets after death.

For more details on why wills and trusts matter, read our article The Common Mistake That Puts Your Entire Portfolio At Risk.

Source: Investing Answers



English Language Learners Definition of will

law : a legal document in which a person states who should receive his or her possessions after he or she dies
: a strong desire or determination to do something
: a person's choice or desire in a particular situation
\ wəl How to pronounce will (audio) , ˈwil\
past would\ wəd , ˈwu̇d \; present singular & plural will

Kids Definition of will

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 : wish to They will have milk.
2 : am, is, or are willing to I will go if you ask me.
3 : am, is, or are determined to We will go in spite of the storm.
4 : am, is, or are going to Everyone will be there.
5 : is or are commanded to You will obey.
6 : is or are able to The car will hold six people.
7 : is or are likely or bound to The truth will come out.


\ ˈwil How to pronounce will (audio) \

Kids Definition of will (Entry 2 of 3)

1 : a firm desire or determination They have the will to win.
2 : the power to decide or control emotions or actions He quit smoking through his own will.
3 : a particular person's decision or choice It's the king's will that he be jailed.
4 : a legal paper in which a person states to whom his or her property is to be given after death


\ ˈwil How to pronounce will (audio) \
willed; willing

Kids Definition of will (Entry 3 of 3)

1 : to intend or order It will happen if God wills it.
2 : to bring to a certain condition by the power of the will Jonas felt himself losing consciousness and with his whole being willed himself to stay upright …— Lois Lowry, The Giver
3 : to decide on by choice Go where you will.
4 : to leave by will They willed the house to me.

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Legal Definition of will

 (Entry 1 of 2)

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
at will
: subject to an individual's discretion specifically : without a requirement that the employer have just cause for terminating an employee could be discharged at will

Legal Definition of will (Entry 2 of 2)

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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More from Merriam-Webster on will

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with will

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for will

Spanish Central: Translation of will

Nglish: Translation of will for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of will for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about will

Comments on will

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