Italian Word of the Day: Volontà (will)

The word for will, as in the mental power by which one controls one’s thought, actions and decisions, is volontà in Italian. It shares the same origin as the English word volition. In addition to being a feminine noun, it is also invariable, meaning that the plural is spelled the same way.


Buona volontà (goodwill) refers to the commitment, ability and desire to apply oneself whereas cattiva volontà (cattiva = bad) describes someone who lacks commitment, and tends to evade their duties or carries them out unwillingly. In this sense of the word, volontà functions as a synonym for voglia (want, desire), albeit with firmer and more resolute undertones.

Lo studente non ha la volontà di studiare.

The student doesn’t have the desire to study.

A person with forza di volontà (willpower) is able to exert control over their own thoughts and the way they behave.

A very useful expression in Italian is a volontà which means ‘as much as one likes‘. Fare qualcosa a volontà, for example, means to do something until one’s heart is content and mangiare a volontà is the equivalent of all-you-can-eat.

Domani a pranzo il nostro ristorante cinese preferito proporrà un buffet a volontà.

Tomorrow at lunch time our favourite Chinese restaurant will offer an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Top view of assorted sushi, all you can eat menu
Mmm, sushi a volontà! = Mmm, all-you-can-eat sushi!

Below are a few additional expressions where volontà commonly appears:

  • volontà ferma = strong will
  • volontà debole = weak will
  • di propria spontanea volontà = of one’s own free will
  • le ultime volontà = last will and testament
  • secondo la tua volontà = as you wish

L’ho fatto di mia spontanea volontà.

I did it of my own free will.

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