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[vol-uh n-teer] /ˌvɒl ənˈtɪər/
a person who voluntarily offers himself or herself for a service or undertaking.
a person who performs a service willingly and without pay.
Military. a person who enters the service voluntarily rather than through conscription or draft, especially for special or temporary service rather than as a member of the regular or permanent army.
  1. a person whose actions are not founded on any legal obligation so to act.
  2. a person who intrudes into a matter that does not concern him or her, as a person who pays the debt of another where he or she is neither legally nor morally bound to do so and has no interest to protect in making the payment.
Agriculture. a volunteer plant.
(initial capital letter) a native or inhabitant of Tennessee (used as a nickname).
of, relating to, or being a volunteer or volunteers:
a volunteer fireman.
Agriculture. growing without being seeded, planted, or cultivated by a person; springing up spontaneously.
verb (used without object)
to offer oneself for some service or undertaking.
to enter service or enlist as a volunteer.
verb (used with object)
to offer (oneself or one's services) for some undertaking or purpose.
to give, bestow, or perform voluntarily:
to volunteer a song.
to say, tell, or communicate voluntarily:
to volunteer an explanation.
Origin of volunteer
1590-1600; < French volontaire < Latin voluntārius voluntary, with -eer for French -aire
Related forms
prevolunteer, noun, verb
unvolunteering, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for volunteer
  • volunteer as a tutor or offer your time to help with some student activities.
  • Every mining-camp, every successful volunteer regiment, proves it.
  • For the therapies, doctors typically obtain cord blood from the placentas of volunteer donors after they give birth.
  • Ask students why they think each of these volunteer activities is helpful.
  • We were asked if any wanted to volunteer to work the venues and the dorms where the athletes would be staying.
  • Directly below the sidewalk, a volunteer scratches up dirt in a niche formed largely by the bones of dead mammoths.
  • As a daily community service, local mediums volunteer to give short group readings.
  • Everyone on the project was a volunteer, and only two of the players had any acting experience.
  • Any added experience you can demonstrate to employers, even if it's volunteer work, can improve your prospects on the job market.
  • No one expects you to volunteer unflattering news, unprompted.
British Dictionary definitions for volunteer


  1. a person who performs or offers to perform voluntary service
  2. (as modifier): a volunteer system, volunteer advice
a person who freely undertakes military service, esp temporary or special service
  1. a person who does some act or enters into a transaction without being under any legal obligation to do so and without being promised any remuneration for his services
  2. (property law) a person to whom property is transferred without his giving any valuable consideration in return, as a legatee under a will
  1. a plant that grows from seed that has not been deliberately sown
  2. (as modifier): a volunteer plant
to offer (oneself or one's services) for an undertaking by choice and without request or obligation
(transitive) to perform, give, or communicate voluntarily: to volunteer help, to volunteer a speech
(intransitive) to enlist voluntarily for military service
Word Origin
C17: from French volontaire, from Latin voluntārius willing; see voluntary
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for volunteer

c.1600, "one who offers himself for military service," from Middle French voluntaire, noun use of adj. meaning "voluntary," from Latin voluntarius "voluntary, of one's free will" (see voluntary). Non-military sense is first recorded 1630s. The verb is first recorded 1755, from the noun. Tennessee has been the Volunteer State since the Mexican War, when a call for 2,800 volunteers brought out 30,000 men.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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