Voluntell v.- to volunteer someone to do a task (usually not an enjoyable one) without their consent or knowledge.Usually used in the past participle, voluntold, to complain about someone volunteering you to do a task.

Etymology- this word is a blend of volunteer and told. Volunteer comes from the late 16th century french word “volontaire.” This originated from the latin root, “voluntarius,” which means “of one’s free will.” Volunteer was used originally in reference to volunteering in the military. It’s first recorded non-military sense was in the 1630’s. Told, obviously the past tense of tell, is of Germanic origin and is related to the Germanic “zählen” which means reckon or count, and “erzählen” which means to recount or relate. “Voluntold” originated in marine-speak, and first appeared in writing, according to this online dictionary, in the 2005 book Voices from the Front by Frank Schaeffer.

Connotation- this word is usually used to complain about someone volunteering you against your will, therefore, it has a strong negative connotation, with a slight twist of sarcasm. It’s used in kind of a humorous way to suggest that the task was something that people should volunteer for but don’t or that the volunteller wants to make it seem like they aren’t forcing you to do something. Perhaps it’s even used to get around rules of bosses telling workers what to do, suggesting that someone is doing it according to their own will when in fact they are threatened into doing it.

Sociolectal comments- usually used in an organization or workplace setting. Urban dictionary said that often people at work complain to coworkers that they stay late because they were voluntold to. I first heard it during a crew meeting in which people were needed to write articles for our crew newspaper that we send to alumni, and they threatened that if no one volunteered, people would be voluntold. It makes sense that people use it more in this type of setting because it requires an authority figure demanding someone of lesser power to do something for them. Here is a link to an article explaining the use of “voluntold” in the workplace: click here.

Prediction for survival- This word is easy to understand and to pick up, so it may extend into larger circles and stay in circulation for a long time. I was surprised that most people had not heard it before, because I hear it quite often. The necessity of this word is questionable. The debate is surrounding the usage of the word and whether or not it fills a gap in our language. Essentially, this word is synonymous to “commanded,” “tell,” or “order.” However, some argue that it adds a subtle meaning discussed earlier in the connotations section that differentiates it from “tells” and similar synonyms.

Lexopinion- Some I interviewed thought the word sounded too “clumpy” and that it wasn’t eloquent enough. Others said that you could just use other better words, like coerced or forced, so it has no use. There are a lot of mixed opinions about its usage, the concept behind the word, how it sounds, and whether it fills a gap in our language. Personally, I think that voluntold adds a strong sarcastic undertone that allows it to become used more widely on social media and therefore is useful for social interactions with peers.


  1. lamorris says:

    I have never heard this word before, but I find it hilarious. I agree that the words “coerced” or “forced” could potentially have the same meaning, but I still think “voluntold” fills a gap because of its unique, tongue-in-cheek tone. I also think the word is fairly easy to understand even if you’ve never heard it before, so I can imagine that it might become more popular. I, for one, will probably definitely use this word now, because these situations seem to come up a lot, and “voluntold” has the perfect amount of sarcasm to demonstrate frustration.

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