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Related to willful: willfully, wilful, willful ignorance


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 ?
On the other hand, funds earned in a foreign jurisdiction prior to immigrating to the United States, or gifts and inheritance from a foreign person which remained offshore may be less indicative of willful acts by the client.
In establishing that willful blindness could constitute knowledge
identifying willful infringement that is stricter and more effective
The AJCA also amended Section 5321(a)(5)(C) to increase the maximum potential civil penalty for a willful failure to disclose an interest in or authority over a foreign financial account, to the greater of (1) $100,000 or (2) 50% of the transaction amount (or balance in the account) at the time of the violation.
This initiative impacts establishments that received OSHA citations with the highest severity of willful violations, multiple serious violations at the highest level of severity, repeat violations at the originating establishment, failure-to-abate notices, or a serious or willful violation associated with a fatality
A willful violation is defined by OSHA as one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations.
If it's a willful attack on a student the incident should be recorded as battery, not assault.
What might be intended to serve as a critique, to comment on patterns of understanding, to assault, in a manner reminiscent of Gertrude Stein, the uneasy authority of a dominant (and male) voice, finally appears so arbitrary and willful as to become hopelessly mannerist.
DHCR cannot simply take every case and treble the overcharge by calling it willful," Turkel said.
for breach of contract, willful and wanton damage to reputation and fraud after the firm allegedly reneged on an agreement to make him a 15% equity partner within a year after he joined the firm.
The dissenting opinion contends the federal law protecting handicapped people requires individual determinations of whether a veteran's alcoholism flows from willful misconduct.