Word of the Day : June 28, 2019


noun voh-LISH-un

What It Means

1 : the power of choosing or determining : will

2 : an act of making a choice or decision; also : a choice or decision made


"The rules of the universe created certain compulsions, as did the formal and structural conventions I'd put in motion. Slowly, without any volition from me…, the characters started to do certain things, each on his or her own, the sum total of which resulted, in the end, in a broad, cooperative pattern that seemed to be arguing for what I'd call a viral theory of goodness." — George Saunders, The Guardian, 4 Mar. 2017

"Mr. [Gus] Ben David said there is no chance that the wild coyote was brought to the Island by a human. 'No, no way. Coyotes, even if you raise one from a little pup, they're vicious. No way that animal was brought to this Island. That animal basically got here on its own volition,' he said." — Noah Asimow, The Vineyard Gazette (Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts), 15 May 2019

Did You Know?

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."

Word Family Quiz

Does velleity refer to a high or low degree of volition?



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