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Intentional; not accidental; voluntary; designed.

There is no precise definition of the term willful because its meaning largely depends on the context in which it appears. It generally signifies a sense of the intentional as opposed to the inadvertent, the deliberate as opposed to the unplanned, and the voluntary as opposed to the compelled. After centuries of court cases, it has no single meaning, whether as an adjective (willful) or an adverb (willfully).

Statutes and case law have adapted the term willful to the particular circumstances of action and inaction peculiar to specific areas of the law, including tort law, criminal law, workers' compensation, and Unemployment Compensation. A willful violation, for example, may mean a deliberate intent to violate the law, an intent to perform an act that the law forbids, an intent to refrain from performing an act that the law requires, an indifference to whether or not action or inaction violates the law, or some other variant.

In criminal-law statutes, willfully ordinarily means with a bad purpose or criminal intent, particularly if the proscribed act is mala in se (an evil in itself, intrinsically wrong) or involves moral turpitude. For example, willful murder is the unlawful killing of another individual without any excuse or Mitigating Circumstances. If the forbidden act is not wrong in itself, such as driving over the speed limit, willfully is used to mean intentionally, purposefully, or knowingly.

Under workers' compensation acts, willful misconduct by an employee means that he intentionally performed an act with the knowledge that it was likely to result in serious injuries or with reckless disregard of its probable consequences. A finding of "willful misconduct" prevents the employee from being awarded compensation for his injuries.

Under unemployment compensation laws, an employee who is fired on willful misconduct grounds is not entitled to recover unemployment compensation benefits. Common examples of such willful misconduct include excessive absenteeism, habitual lateness, deliberate violations of an employer's rules and regulations, reporting for work in an intoxicated condition, and drinking alcoholic beverages while on the job.


adj. referring to acts which are intentional, conscious, and directed toward achieving a purpose. Some willful conduct which has wrongful or unfortunate results is considered "hardheaded," "stubborn" and even "malicious." Example: "The defendant's attack on his neighbor was willful." (See: willfully)


adjective conscious, contemplated, deliberate, designed, inflexible, intended, intentional, intractable, intransigent, obdurate, obstinate, obstinatus, pertinax, planned, premeditated, purposed, purposeful, restive, retractory, studied, tenacious, uncompromising, unconstrained, unyielding, volitional, volitive, voluntary
Associated concepts: willful acts
See also: arbitrary and capricious, deliberate, disobedient, express, froward, inexorable, inflexible, intentional, intractable, obdurate, pertinacious, premeditated, recalcitrant, restive, spontaneous, unbending, uncontrollable, unruly, unyielding, voluntary
References in periodicals archive ?
In another case of Hyderabad, director of an infrastructure company was sentenced to rigorous imprisonment of six months and fine for wilful attempt to evade tax.
State Bank of India chair, Rajnish Kumar, said, 'There is no place for wilful defaulters or people who have diverted fund as proved in the forensic audit.
There were 129 wilful defaulters who borrowed loans in excess of Rs 100 crore amounting to Rs 28,525 crore from PSBs as on June 30, 2016, Minister of State for Finance Santosh Kumar Gangwar told the Lok Sabha in a written reply.
The reports stated that for wilful evasion of taxes, Section 276 C (2) of the IT Act provides for rigorous imprisonment for a period between three months and three years which may be accompanied by a fine.
Nurses Natalie Jones, Rebecca Jones and Lauro Bertulano have all admitted wilful neglect charges, while Clare Cahill has denied six charges of wilful neglect and Jade Pugh denied three.
Grey Areas The RBI's wilful default guidelines were framed in 1999.
Jade Pugh, 29, faces three charges of wilful neglect, while Natalie Jones, 40, has been charged with four counts.
For all its familiarity and intuitive appeal, however, wilful blindness remains a troubled concept.
Kathryn Ann Jackson, 40, of Hawthorn Drive, Guisborough; Louise Southeran-Darley, 34, of Burke Place, Hartlepool; and Barry Etherington, 49, of Darlington Lane, Stockton, all deny wilful neglect of Janet Evans, who is said to "lack mental capacity".
The care home's general managerDawn Harris, and care manager Enda Evansalso deny wilful neglect.
A woman accused of leaving her three children home alone while she visited Afghanistan has been arrested on suspicion of wilful neglect, police said yesterday Simten Sezgun, 33, (right) has now been released on police bail pending further inquires, West Yorkshire Police said.
Was this because there were no suitable entries, or because the jury had a wilful bias against such things?