Printable Version
Pronunciation: vah-lên-teer Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A person who agrees to do something of their own free will without pressure or coercion. 2. A person who works for no pay. 3. A plant that sprouts and grows without being planted by someone.

Notes: Today's Good Word is a repronunciation of the same word that gave us the adjective voluntary, so voluntary serves as the adjective for this noun. It may be used as an adverb with the usual suffix: voluntarily. The noun itself may be used as a verb to indicate the behavior of a volunteer. 'To volunteer for service' is to agree to carry it out without coercion or without pay. The characteristic or habit of volunteering is known as voluntarism, and it is an excellent habit to get into. We couldn't survive without it.

In Play: Quite a few jobs that must be done voluntarily emerge every day: "Speak up louder: how many volunteers do I have to clean up after the office party?" Housework is almost always done voluntarily. "Hey, you kids can volunteer to clean up your rooms or I can resort to the usual methods of coercion." (I would assume this sort of threat to be one of those methods.)

Word History: Today's word comes from Old French voluntaire (Modern French volontaire, Italian volontario, Spanish voluntario, and Portuguese voluntário). These languages inherited their versions from Latin voluntarius "willing, voluntary", the adjective from voluntas "free will", based on volare "to want, wish, be willing". The same root underlies our Good Word voluptuary. Volare was passed down from PIE wel-/wol- "wish, want". It emerged in Germanic languages as English will and well (in the sense of "according to your wishes"), German wollen and Dutch willen "to want". In Slavic languages it turned up in Serbian as voleti "to love", Polish wola and Russian volya "will (power)". In Russian we also find velet' "to command, order". (We are grateful that Ed Bedford volunteered the suggestion of today's Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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