Definition of voluntary in English:



  • 1Done, given, or acting of one's own free will.

    ‘we are funded by voluntary contributions’
    • ‘The company ceased trading in March 1991 and went into voluntary liquidation three years later.’
    • ‘In a statement issued by the global company, it said voluntary redundancy still remained open to staff and that there would be no compulsory redundancies made during 2003.’
    • ‘The needs of this enterprise - supported almost entirely through voluntary donations - would have been extraordinary.’
    • ‘Informed consent was obtained from all the study participants prior to data collection and participation was completely voluntary.’
    • ‘The risk is that what starts as voluntary euthanasia becomes extended to involuntary euthanasia.’
    • ‘Participation is totally voluntary but has been continual and according to the students quite rewarding.’
    • ‘About five of the 15 took up an offer to apply for voluntary redundancy.’
    • ‘Of course posting such information would be completely voluntary, a gift to the community.’
    • ‘The fund was supported solely by voluntary contributions; no church dollars were used.’
    • ‘The chapel was built with voluntary contributions and opened in 1956.’
    • ‘Eventually, the company overstretched itself and was ultimately forced to file for voluntary liquidation.’
    • ‘‘It's an enormously worthwhile cause, which has to be supported by voluntary contributions,’ she said.’
    • ‘But when it comes to compliance with the law, it has got to be largely voluntary.’
    • ‘First, the patient may choose to die, usually described as voluntary euthanasia.’
    • ‘A spokesman said employees could either be redeployed, retrained or take voluntary redundancy.’
    • ‘Her business was placed into voluntary liquidation on December 5, 2002, with estimated debts of £84,558.’
    • ‘A new landlord and landlady have taken over a York pub - with ambitious plans to restore it to its former glory - after the previous owners went into voluntary liquidation.’
    • ‘Participation in the survey was voluntary and not a required part of the course.’
    • ‘A 30-day consultation process will begin on Monday to agree on the voluntary redundancies and payment packages for those leaving the firm.’
    • ‘The government has also been keen to emphasise that participation in any mission will be strictly voluntary.’
    optional, discretionary, at one's discretion, elective, non-compulsory, non-mandatory, not required, open, open to choice, volitional, up to the individual
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    1. 1.1Physiology Under the conscious control of the brain.
      ‘voluntary contraction of the calf muscles’
      • ‘It attacks motor neurones in the spinal cord and lower brain, which transmit signals from the brain to the voluntary muscles throughout the body.’
      • ‘Inline skating - unlike other popular forms of cardio exercise-works both voluntary and involuntary core muscles.’
      • ‘It is controlled by the autonomic nervous system, but is also under voluntary control.’
      • ‘Such receptors are commonly responsible for the fastest forms of chemical communication between cells, and include the nicotinic receptors that mediate the voluntary control of skeletal muscle.’
      • ‘The cerebrum controls voluntary actions, thought, speech, and memory.’
  • 2Working, done, or maintained without payment.

    ‘a voluntary helper’
    • ‘He added: ‘I look forward to further funding in the voluntary housing sector in this county in the future.’’
    • ‘The voluntary housing association is planning an ‘affordable’ housing estate for the near future to meet the increasing demand in the area.’
    • ‘Council leaders, voluntary groups and housing associations will be invited to put forward people to take part in the controversial scheme.’
    • ‘‘We know that some of the voluntary housing agencies are in discussions with land-owners in the town,’ he said.’
    • ‘The Government funding is available for subsidised housing, covering accommodation rented to tenants from local authorities and aid for voluntary housing areas.’
    • ‘The Corporation was also involved in affordable housing schemes in the City and also played a major role in the various voluntary housing projects being constructed in Waterford.’
    • ‘A town of charm and dignity, much improved in recent years due mainly to the labours of this committee and a very large number of voluntary helpers.’
    • ‘While maintaining the voluntary element in its structure the management of the Board are grateful for funding from diverse Government sources and for the hard working staff thus funded.’
    • ‘Many shows are struggling to make financial ends meet and are increasingly dependant on voluntary helpers and sponsorship.’
    • ‘Local authorities and other public bodies, housing associations and voluntary organisations, all need to work together to respond the complex needs of young people who are socially excluded.’
    • ‘The chairperson in her address thanked all the voluntary helpers, especially the minibus drivers and all the people who patronised the centre during the year.’
    • ‘Overall the vast majority of voluntary organizations expressed satisfaction with the quality of their evaluations and believe that they use the results effectively.’
    • ‘The school cleaner volunteers have been protesting for about a month outside the gates of the legislature, demanding payment for voluntary work offered since 1997.’
    • ‘More voluntary helpers are needed in Kilconduff cemetery on Saturday mornings at 10 am to help with the digging, cleaning, strimming and weeding.’
    • ‘It later emerged an untrained voluntary helper had taken 10 boys on a morning walk.’
    • ‘‘I have grave concerns about handing our work over to voluntary housing organisations,’ she said.’
    • ‘As the work is ongoing more voluntary helpers are needed to help complete the work.’
    • ‘The Committee take this opportunity to thank you for your continued support, and a special word of thanks also to all the voluntary helpers and committee.’
    • ‘The 90-unit development will comprise of travellers accommodation, local authority housing and voluntary housing.’
    • ‘Meals-on-Wheels urgently requires 2 voluntary helpers/cooks to assist in the preparing, cooking and dishing out dinners and deserts.’
    unpaid, unsalaried, without pay, without payment, free of charge, without charge, for nothing, for free
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    1. 2.1Law (of a conveyance or disposition) made without return in money or other consideration.
      • ‘There is no reason in principle why this jurisdiction should be limited to voluntary settlements in the strict sense.’
      • ‘Section 120 deals with voluntary settlements and marriage settlements.’
      • ‘In the case of a voluntary disposition of a former business property, a taxpayer must acquire the replacement property before the end of the first taxation year.’
      • ‘If there are junior liens outstanding, they are not eliminated by a voluntary conveyance.’

nounPlural voluntaries

  • 1An organ solo played before, during, or after a church service.

    • ‘Lara hissed, supposedly under her breath, but it was picked up over the microphone and echoed around the church above the organ voluntary.’
    • ‘The organ voluntary was the Arrival of the Queen of Sheba from Solomon, Handel’
    • ‘His Melothesia, published in 1673, contains preludes and dances for harpsichord by himself and other court composers, with seven organ voluntaries as well as the earliest known printed rules for realizing a figured bass.’
    • ‘The universal appeal of the majority of tunes and the simplicity of settings should help this collection find an audience among the ever-expanding number of organists looking for easy voluntaries on well-known hymn tunes.’
    1. 1.1historical A piece of music performed extempore, especially as a prelude to other music, or composed in a free style.
      • ‘It consists of a complete four-minute piece, in the form of a simple prelude or voluntary and the start - just a few bars - of a fugal Allegro in the manner of a toccata.’
      • ‘After the ceremony the couple sign a wedding certificate, and they leave to the sound of the trumpet voluntary - again music full of associations with weddings down the years.’
      • ‘In the middle of the period are the splendid voluntaries, written by Henry Heron, John Keeble and William Russell.’
      • ‘As a trumpeter, I have played a number of trumpet tunes and voluntaries that were transcriptions of original baroque organ works.’
      overture, introductory movement, introduction, opening, voluntary
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  • 2(in a competition) a special performance left to the performer's choice.


Late Middle English: from Old French volontaire or Latin voluntarius, from voluntas ‘will’.