vo·​li·​tion | \ vō-ˈli-shən How to pronounce volition (audio) , və- \

Definition of volition

1 : the power of choosing or determining : will
2 : an act of making a choice or decision also : a choice or decision made

Other Words from volition

volitional \ vō-​ˈlish-​nəl , -​ˈli-​shə-​nᵊl How to pronounce volition (audio) , və-​ \ adjective

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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."

Examples of volition in a Sentence

Tourette's syndrome is a neurological disorder marked by recurrent tics and vocalizations that are beyond the sufferer's volition or control. left the church of her own volition, not because she was excommunicated
Recent Examples on the Web When people leave of their own volition, the company will gladly accept the attrition and won’t replace those who’ve left. Jack Kelly, Forbes, 1 Aug. 2022 The threat could inspire staff to leave of their own volition. Jack Kelly, Forbes, 24 June 2022 The ink stain on the sofa fades of its own volition. Lindsay Turner, The New York Review of Books, 25 May 2022 But for all these groups there are many others who’ve just come of their own volition. Harper Simon, SPIN, 20 May 2022 Fans then watched as Wilson appeared to scurry around the infield, as if of its own volition. Ryan Gajewski, The Hollywood Reporter, 15 Apr. 2022 Also unclear is whether a business could decide of its own volition to conduct vaccine verification when it’s not required as a trade-off for allowing customers to go maskless. Luke Money, Los Angeles Times, 22 Feb. 2022 What happens in the space between volition and action? Kelly Clancy, Wired, 10 Jan. 2022 Ivanka’s husband, Jared Kushner, who was also a senior adviser to Trump while in office and also in communication with him on January 6, has already talked to the committee—and, like his wife, did so of his own volition. Daniel Strauss, The New Republic, 8 Apr. 2022 See More

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

First Known Use of volition

1605, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for volition

French, from Medieval Latin volition-, volitio, from Latin vol- (stem of velle to will, wish) + -ition-, -itio (as in Latin position-, positio position) — more at will

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The first known use of volition was in 1605

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Last Updated

8 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Volition.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/volition. Accessed 15 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for volition


vo·​li·​tion | \ vō-ˈli-shən How to pronounce volition (audio) \

Kids Definition of volition

: the act or power of making choices or decisions without being influenced by other people : will I chose to go on my own volition.


vo·​li·​tion | \ vō-ˈlish-ən, və- How to pronounce volition (audio) \

Medical Definition of volition

1 : an act of making a choice or decision also : a choice or decision made
2 : the power of choosing or determining

More from Merriam-Webster on volition

Nglish: Translation of volition for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of volition for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about volition


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