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From Medieval Latin velleitās, from Latin velle (wish, will).


  • IPA(key): /vɛˈliː.ɪ.ti/
    • (file)


velleity (countable and uncountable, plural velleities)

  1. The lowest degree of desire or volition; a total lack of effort to act.
    • 1870, James Russell Lowel, Rousseau and the Sentimentalists:
      Rousseau showed through life a singular proneness for being convinced by his own eloquence; he was always his own first convert; and this reconciles his power as a writer with his weakness as a man. He and all like him mistake emotion for conviction, velleity for resolve, the brief eddy of sentiment for the midcurrent of ever-gathering faith in duty that draws to itself all the affluents of conscience and will, and gives continuity and purpose to life.
    • 1973, Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow:
      This connoisseuse of “splendid weaknesses”, run not by any lust or even velleity but by vacuum: by the absence of human hope.
  2. A slight wish not followed by any effort to obtain.
    • 1896, George Saintsbury, chapter II, in A History of Nineteenth Century Literature[1]:
      All were born late enough to breathe the atmosphere of the new poetry young; all had poetical velleities, and a certain amount, if not of originality, of capacity to write poetry. But they were not poets; they were only poetical curiosities.
    • 1917, T[homas] S[tearns] Eliot, “[Prufrock and Other Observations.] Portrait of a Lady.”, in Collected Poems 1909–1935, London: Faber & Faber [], published September 1954, OCLC 858724037, page 16:
      —And so the conversation slips / Among velleities and carefully caught regrets / Through attenuated tones of violins / Mingled with remote cornets / And begins.
    • 1919, The Times, column A, page 12:
      The debate in the House of Lords would convert the impartial listener from any velleity towards single-chamber government.
    • 1995, Neal Stephenson, The Diamond Age, Bantam Books, published 2008, page 47:
      The difficulty of getting here prevented people from coming on a velleity.
    • 2006, Howard Jacobson, Kalooki Nights, Vintage, published 2007, page 372:
      Who could have imagined then, in Crumpsall, that the ancient Jewish hope, ‘Next year in Jerusalem’ – for so long more a velleity than a hope, the feeblest and most unanticipated of anticipations – would be realised in their lifetime and that they would be able to stand here, under the watchful eye of Israeli soldiers, but otherwise unimpeded, together?

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