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

  • n. The mental faculty by which one deliberately chooses or decides upon a course of action: championed freedom of will against a doctrine of predetermination.
  • n. The act of exercising the will.
  • n. Diligent purposefulness; determination: an athlete with the will to win.
  • n. Self-control; self-discipline: lacked the will to overcome the addiction.
  • n. A desire, purpose, or determination, especially of one in authority: It is the sovereign's will that the prisoner be spared.
  • n. Deliberate intention or wish: Let it be known that I took this course of action against my will.
  • n. Free discretion; inclination or pleasure: wandered about, guided only by will.
  • n. Bearing or attitude toward others; disposition: full of good will.
  • n. A legal declaration of how a person wishes his or her possessions to be disposed of after death.
  • n. A legally executed document containing this declaration.
  • transitive v. To decide on; choose.
  • transitive v. To yearn for; desire: "She makes you will your own destruction” ( George Bernard Shaw).
  • transitive v. To decree, dictate, or order.
  • transitive v. To resolve with a forceful will; determine.
  • transitive v. To induce or try to induce by sheer force of will: We willed the sun to come out.
  • transitive v. To grant in a legal will; bequeath.
  • intransitive v. To exercise the will.
  • intransitive v. To make a choice; choose.
  • idiom at will Just as or when one wishes.
  • auxiliary v. Used to indicate simple futurity: They will appear later.
  • auxiliary v. Used to indicate likelihood or certainty: You will regret this.
  • auxiliary v. Used to indicate willingness: Will you help me with this package?
  • auxiliary v. Used to indicate requirement or command: You will report to me afterward.
  • auxiliary v. Used to indicate intention: I will too if I feel like it.
  • auxiliary v. Used to indicate customary or habitual action: People will talk.
  • auxiliary v. Used to indicate capacity or ability: This metal will not crack under heavy pressure.
  • auxiliary v. Used to indicate probability or expectation: That will be the messenger ringing.
  • transitive v. To wish; desire: Do what you will. Sit here if you will. See Usage Note at shall.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • To wish; to desire; to incline to have.
  • As an auxiliary, will is used to denote futurity dependent on the verb. Thus, in first person, “I will” denotes willingness, consent, promise; and when “will” is emphasized, it denotes determination or fixed purpose. In the second and third persons, the idea of distinct volition, wish, or purpose is evanescent, and simple certainty is appropriately expressed. To emphasize will denotes (according to the tone or context) certain futurity or fixed determination.
  • n. The power of choosing; the faculty or endowment of the soul by which it is capable of choosing; the faculty or power of the mind by which we decide to do or not to do; the power or faculty of preferring or selecting one of two or more objects.
  • n. The choice which is made; a determination or preference which results from the act or exercise of the power of choice; a volition.
  • n. The choice or determination of one who has authority; a decree; a command; discretionary pleasure.
  • n. Strong wish or inclination; desire; purpose.
  • n. That which is strongly wished or desired.
  • n. Arbitrary disposal; power to control, dispose, or determine.
  • n. The legal declaration of a person's mind as to the manner in which he would have his property or estate disposed of after his death; the written instrument, legally executed, by which a man makes disposition of his estate, to take effect after his death; testament; devise. See the Note under Testament, 1.
  • intransitive v. To be willing; to be inclined or disposed; to be pleased; to wish; to desire.
  • intransitive v. To exercise an act of volition; to choose; to decide; to determine; to decree.
  • transitive v. To form a distinct volition of; to determine by an act of choice; to ordain; to decree.
  • transitive v. To enjoin or command, as that which is determined by an act of volition; to direct; to order.
  • transitive v. To give or direct the disposal of by testament; to bequeath; to devise; ; also, to order or direct by testament.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • A As an independent verb.
  • To wish; desire; want; be willing to have (a certain thing done): now chiefly used in the subjunctive (optative) preterit form would governing a clause: as, I would that the day were at hand. When in the first person the subject is frequently omitted: as, would that ye had listened to us!
  • Would in optative expressions is often followed by a dative, with or without to, noting the person or power by whom the wish may be fulfilled: hence the phrases would (to) God, would (to) heaven, etc.
  • To have a wish or desire; be willing.
  • B. As an auxiliary, followed by an infinitive without to.
  • To wish, want, like, or agree (to do, etc.); to be (am, is, are, was, etc.) willing (to do, etc.): noting desire, preference, consent, or, negatively, refusal.
  • To be (am, is, are, etc.) determined (to do, etc.): said when one insists on or persists in being or doing something; hence, must, as a matter of will or pertinacity; do (emphatic auxiliary) from choice, wilfulness, determination, or persistence.
  • To make (it) a habit or practice (to do, etc.); be (am, is, are, etc.) accustomed (to do, etc.); do usually: noting frequent or customary action.
  • To be (am, is, are, etc.) sure (to do, etc.); do undoubtedly, inevitably, or of necessity; ought or have (to do, etc.); must: used in incontrovertible or general statements, and often, especially in provincial use, forming a verbphrase signifying no more than the simple verb: as, I'm thinking this will be (that is, this is) your daughter.
  • To be (am, is, are, etc.) ready or about (to do, etc.): said of one on the point of doing something not necessarily accomplished.
  • In future and conditional constructions, to be (am, is, are, etc.) (to do, etc.): in general noting in the first person a promise or determination, and in the second and third mere assertion of a future occurrence without reference to the will of the subject, other verb-phrases being compounded with the auxiliary shall. For a more detailed discrimination between will and shall, see shall, B., 2.
  • In such constructions will is sometimes found where precision would require shall. See shall, B., final note.
  • [Would is often used for will in order to avoid a dogmatic style or to soften blunt or harsh assertions, questions, etc.
  • In all its senses the auxiliary will may be used with an ellipsis of the following infinitive.
  • To wish; desire.
  • To communicate or express a wish to; desire; request; direct; tell; bid; order; command.
  • To determine by act of choice; decide; decree; ordain; hence, to intend; purpose.
  • To dispose of by will or testament; give as a legacy; bequeath: as, he willed the farm to his nephew.
  • To bring under the influence or control of the will of another; subject to the power of another's will.
  • To wish; desire; prefer; resolve; determine; decree.
  • To exercise the will.
  • Astray; wrong; at a loss; bewildered.
  • To wander; go astray; be lost, at a loss, or bewildered.
  • n. An abbreviation of the personal name William.
  • n. Wish; desire; pleasure; inclination; choice.
  • n. That which is wished for or desired; express wish; purpose; determination.
  • n. Wish; request; command.
  • n. Expressed wish with regard to the disposal of one's property, or the like, after death; the document containing such expression of one's wishes; especially, in law, the legal declaration of a person's intentions, to take effect after his death.
  • n. Discretion; free or arbitrary disposal; sufferance; mercy.
  • n. The faculty of conscious, and especially of deliberate, action.
  • n. The act of willing; the act of determining a choice or forming a purpose; volition.
  • n. At pleasure; at discretion. To hold an estate at the will of another is to enjoy the possession at his pleasure, and be liable to be ousted at any time by the lessor or proprietor. See estate at will, under estate.
  • n. Especially— A testamentary act by two persons jointly uniting in the same instrument, as their will, to take effect after the death of both.
  • n. A similar instrument to take effect as to each on his or her death. These two classes are more properly termed joint or conjoint.
  • n. Wills made in connection by two persons pursuant to a compact, binding each to the other to make the dispositions of property thus declared.
  • n. Wills made to bequeath the effects of the one first dying to the survivor. These two classes, and particularly the last, are more appropriately termed mutual. The legal effect of such wills is often a matter of doubt.
  • n. The power of doing right on all occasions.
  • n. That freedom of which we have an immediate consciousness in action. This is, however, only the consciousness of being able to overcome some unspecified resistance to some unspecified extent, which implies and is implied in the fact of resistance, and is in fact but an aspect of the sense of action and reaction.
  • n. The power of acting from an inward spontaneity, not altogether dominated by motives. This is what most of the metaphysical advocates of the freedom of the will specifically contend for. It is a limitation of the action of causality, even in the material world. Some would restrict the spontaneous power of the mind to making particles swerve without variation of their vis viva; but this is untenable, since the law of action and reaction, which would thus be vitiated, is far more securely proved than that of the conservation of energy, the evidence for which is imperfect, while the objections to it are weighty. It is contended on the one hand that such spontaneity is an indispensable condition of moral action; and on the other that, if it exists, it has no direct reference to morality except this that, so far as a being is spontaneous in this sense, he is free from the moral law as well as from that of causation, and that there is neither sense nor justice in holding him responsible for mere sporadic effects of pure non-cause. Responsibility, it is argued, ought to imply that a man's conduct can be regulated by principles as efficient causes, and is not free from the influence of causation.
  • n. Sincerity; right intention.

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

  • v. determine by choice
  • n. the capability of conscious choice and decision and intention
  • v. leave or give by will after one's death
  • n. a legal document declaring a person's wishes regarding the disposal of their property when they die
  • v. decree or ordain
  • n. a fixed and persistent intent or purpose


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

Middle English, from Old English willa.
Middle English willen, to intend to, from Old English willan.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English wille, from Old English willa ("mind, will, determination, purpose, desire, wish, request, joy, delight, pleasure") (compare verb willian), from Proto-Germanic *wiljô (“desire, will”), from Proto-Indo-European *(e)welǝ- (“to choose, wish”). Cognate with Dutch wil, German Wille, Swedish vilja. The verb is not always distinguishable from Etymology 2, below.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English willen, wullen, wollen, from Old English willan, wyllan ("to will, be willing, wish, desire, be used to, to be about to"), from Proto-Germanic *wiljanan (“to desire, wish”), from Proto-Indo-European *(e)welǝ- (“to choose, wish”). Cognate with Dutch willen, Low German willen, German wollen, Swedish vilja, Latin velle ("wish", v) and Albanian vel ("to satisfy, be stuffed") .It is not always distinguishable from Etymology 1, above.


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  • Oroboros, I just don't understand why all this parsing hasn't given you a crashing headache by now. ;-)

    September 9, 2007

  • A parsing challenge: Will will will Will's will, will Will?

    September 9, 2007

  • "Man does at all times only what he wills, and yet he does this necessarily. But this is due to the fact that he already IS what he wills." --Arthur Schopenhauer

    I.e.: You can want what you will, but you cannot will what you want. The fist cannot grasp itself, nor the eye behold its seeing.

    February 19, 2007