A velleity is a wish or desire to do something, but without any actual effort to make it happen.
Vuh LEE it ee.
If you have trouble remembering it,
notice how similar it is in spelling
to the rhyming word "deity"
(pronounced "DEE it ee").
Part of speech:
(Countable nouns, like “bottle,” “piece,” and “decision,” are words for things that can be broken into exact units. You talk about “a bottle,” “three pieces,” and “many decisions.”
Likewise, talk about one velleity or multiple velleities.)
How to use it:
Talk about someone's velleity (or someone's velleities), foolish velleities, passing velleities, goals and intentions that turn out to be just velleities, wanting to go beyond velleities and actually get things done, and so on.
You can say "a velleity to do something," as in "a velleity to go back to college for a degree" or "a velleity to learn the guitar." Another way to phrase this type of idea is "a velleity for doing something," as in "a velleity for going back to college for a degree" and "a velleity for learning the guitar." If your velleity is extremely weak, you might phrase it as "a velleity toward doing something," as in "a velleity toward earning a license to sell real estate."
It might interest you to know that "velleity" once caused a kerfuffle over at the Washington Post, where a reviewer used the word, got criticized for selecting such an obscure one, and then received support from others who chimed in to praise "velleity" for its usefulness. I mention all this to emphasize discretion in using the word: it might convey your meaning precisely, but it might also bruise your listeners' egos if they don't know it. It's a thin line we often walk with many sophisticated words.
As a kid, for a few years I had a passionate dream to be an astronaut; for a year or so, a wish to be an ophthalmologist; and for about three days, a velleity to be a flenser (someone who strips the blubber off whales).
Look away from the screen to explain the definition in your own words. You’ll know you understand what "velleity" means when you can explain it without saying "tiny wish" or "passing desire."
Think of something you used to want when you were younger--something that makes you laugh now-- and fill in the blanks: "Among my sillier velleities at the age of _____ was a wish to _____."
Example: "Among my sillier velleities at the age of eight or so was a wish to master telekinesis, like Matilda did in the Roald Dahl book."
Spend at least 20 seconds occupying your mind with the game and quote below. Then try the review questions. Don’t go straight to the review now—let your working memory empty out first.
We’re starting off with easy questions, then working our way toward some whoppers at the end of the month, all the while focusing on funny, unusual words; surprising word histories; and cool tidbits about the language.
This word, “_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _,” is based on Latin campus, “field,” and literally means “one who has the field when the fighting is over.”
Try this one today. It should feel moderately difficult:
The English word for this creature comes from Old French “chatepelose,” which means “hairy cat.” What creature is it?
A Point Well Made:
Van Gogh: “Whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done!”
1. The opposite of VELLEITY is
2. Getting past velleities and _____ is easier said than done.
A. into the dressing rooms backstage
B. taking actual steps toward your goals
C. risking potential rejection from your peers
Answers are below.
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Disclaimer: Word meanings presented here are expressed in plain language and are limited to common, useful applications only. Readers interested in authoritative and multiple definitions of words are encouraged to check a dictionary. Likewise, word meanings, usage, and pronunciations are limited to American English; these elements may vary across world Englishes.
Answers to review questions:
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