Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Volition

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is volition. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Volition is a formal word that means “the power of choosing or determining.” Usually, though not always, volition follows own, as in “left the company of her own volition.”

// Every choice I made was of my own volition and not subject to outside influence.

VOLITION in Context

“A year ago, Naomi Osaka left the French Open of her own volition, never beaten on the court but determining that she needed to pull out before the second round to stand up for herself and protect her mind more than she needed to do whatever she could to win matches.” — Howard Fendrich, The Associated Press, 23 May 2022

Did You Know?

When you do something of your own volition, you do it voluntarily, which makes sense—both volition and voluntary ultimately come from the Latin velle, meaning “to wish” or “to will.” English speakers borrowed volition 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.” By then, however, the word had also developed an additional meaning, “the power to choose,” which is now more common.

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