Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Volition at its lowest level.
  • n. A mere wish or inclination.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The lowest degree of desire or volition, with no effort to act.
  • n. A slight wish not followed by any effort to obtain.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The lowest degree of desire; imperfect or incomplete volition.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Volition in the weakest form; an indolent or inactive wish or inclination toward a thing, which leads to no energetic effort to obtain it: chiefly a scholastic term.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. volition in its weakest form
  • n. a mere wish, unaccompanied by effort to obtain

Etymologies

New Latin velleitās, from Latin velle, to wish; see wel-1 in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Medieval Latin velleitās, from Latin velle ("wish, will"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • We may well say: I would desire to be young; but we do not say: I desire to be young; seeing that this is not possible; and this motion is called a wishing, or as the Scholastics term it a velleity, which is nothing else but a commencement of willing, not followed out, because the will, by reason of impossibility or extreme difficulty, stops her motion, and ends it in this simple affection of a wish.

    Treatise on the Love of God

  • Wherefore such a will should rather be called a "velleity" than an absolute will; because one would will (_vellet_) if there were no obstacle.

    Summa Theologica, Part III (Tertia Pars) From the Complete American Edition

  • Therese's "desire" to be a priest was in the field of devotional velleity - nothing approaching the field of voluntas.

    Did St Thérèse want to be a woman priest?

  • But like the former, the latter preference is no mere velleity; it is a firm orientation of the will that requires, among other things, repentance.

    Archive 2007-08-01

  • Some people who are formally in the Church, the household of God, are not followers of Christ in their hearts, despite claiming to be and having a velleity, as distinct from a will, to do so.

    Archive 2007-08-01

  • However, I will permit myself -- and more importantly, will beg your indulgence for -- analepses and occasional analogies where my own admittedly subjective views and readings seem to demand them...or at least wish for them in a spirit of whimsical velleity.

    Omar Karindu on Bendis’ Daredevil – Some Introductory Remarks | Comics Should Be Good! @ Comic Book Resources

  • Who could have imagined then, in Crumpsall, that the ancient Jewish hope, “Next year in Jerusalem”—for so long more a velleity than a hope, the feeblest and most unanticipated of anticipations—would be realized in their lifetime and that they would be able to stand here, under the watchful eye of Israeli soldiers, but otherwise unimpeded, together?

    Kalooki Nights

  • This connoisseuse of "splendid weaknesses," run not by any lust or even velleity but by vacuum: by the absence of human hope.

    Gravity's Rainbow

  • The dope salesman may know everything that's ever going to happen to Tchitcherine, and decide it's no use-or, out of the moment's velleity, lay it right out for the young fool.

    Gravity's Rainbow

  • In both which places the eminency of this love is set forth exceeding emphatically to believers, with such expressions as can no way be accommodated to a natural velleity to the good of all.

    The Death of Death in the Death of Christ

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Comments

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  • This is another one of those words that has such a fragrance of emotion around it; to say it is to feel it.

    April 2, 2009

  • Ewww, Zadie, that was awful.

    May 28, 2008


  • Zadie Smith in an essay on George Eliot in The Guardian:

    "Eliot dissects degrees of human velleity, finding the conscious action hidden within the impulse hidden within the desire hidden within the will tucked away deep inside the decision that we have obfuscated even from ourselves".

    May 27, 2008

  • "'They may have coveted your silver—I am sure they did—but that was a mere passing velleity compared with their yearning for Mr Hadley's double-handed saws, adzes, jack-screws and many other bright steel objects I cannot name.'"
    --Patrick O'Brian, The Nutmeg of Consolation, 34

    March 6, 2008

  • Seanahan: velleitous (per Kit Thompson) would become velleitious in your treatment. Still like it better?

    October 1, 2007

  • I would say velletious instead of velletous, but since neither of those links are going to take you anywhere, the point is moot.

    September 30, 2007

  • Here's Kit Thompson's narrative comment on MyFavoriteWord.com:

    "I found this word on a quiet day in November, in my parent's 1906 Webster's International Dictionary, an immense tome that enjoys its own stand underneath a creepy oil portrait of a somber, walrus-mustached man -- who may or may not be a relative -- in a rather dark corner of the living room of my parents' 200 year old Cape Cod in the woods of Spring Hill Farm in Edgecomb, Maine.

    The word is said to mean: "The lowest degree of desire; imperfect or incomplete volition."

    "It is with great velleity that I get up, put on my socks and shoes, and head to work."

    "Honey, you know I love you but to be perfectly honest, I'm feeling velleitous* about having relations tonight."

    * not in the dictionary, unfortunately.

    September 30, 2007