To volunteer means to freely offer up your time and service to help. So a volunteer might offer to water a neighbor's plants while he's on vacation or sign up to serve dinner at a local homeless shelter.

When it came into usage circa 1600, the noun volunteer referred to a person who offered himself up for military service. It wasn't until a few decades later that the word was first used in a non-military sense. And a little over a hundred years after that, volunteer expanded from functioning as just a noun to also playing the role of verb. A volunteer is someone who volunteers: willingly performs a task or offers a service.

Definitions of volunteer

n a person who performs voluntary work

unpaid worker
candy striper
a volunteer worker in a hospital
pledge taker
a volunteer who records (usually by telephone) contributions pledged in a fund drive
vigilance man, vigilante
member of a vigilance committee
Type of:
a person who works at a specific occupation

n (military) a person who freely enlists for service

military volunteer, voluntary
conscript, draftee, inductee
someone who is drafted into military service
Type of:
man, military man, military personnel, serviceman
someone who serves in the armed forces; a member of a military force

adj without payment

“a volunteer fire department”
of your own free will or design; done by choice; not forced or compelled

v tell voluntarily

“He volunteered the information”
Type of:
impart knowledge of some fact, state or affairs, or event to

v agree freely

“She volunteered to drive the old lady home”
Type of:
act, move
perform an action, or work out or perform (an action)

v do volunteer work

Type of:
exert oneself by doing mental or physical work for a purpose or out of necessity

Sign up, it's free!

Whether you're a student, an educator, or a lifelong learner, Vocabulary.com can put you on the path to systematic vocabulary improvement.