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In a post on Meta Stack Overflow, I used the word "willingness" in the following context:

[X] is showing a willingness to learn.

I justified this because [X] had posted a question asking to have a few lines of code explained. However, another user took it to mean

[X] has not demonstrated that they have put forth any effort to learn. Willingness means actual effort [...]

Personally, I believe that there is a very great difference between the two words, both as defined and the underlying connotation, in that effort is not a prerequisite of willingness. Am I correct, or is "willingness" generally understood to require effort?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

"Willingness" and "effort" are certainly not interchangeable. The former is an apt attitude for doing something, while the latter is the work thereof. Consider, "I want to get this done" compared to "I did that".

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2  
It's more like "I want to try to achieve that goal" vs. "I have performed actions toward that goal", but your point is essentially correct. ;) –  Shaun Feb 13 '11 at 6:20

Willingness is passive [in the human sense]; effort is active [in the human sense].

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Willing means ready, eager, or prepared to do something.

He was quite willing to compromise.

Willingness to doing something doesn't implicate an effort on doing something.

For example, in the sentence

I am willing to add the name of your company in the list of the contributors, but I need the vote of other three people before I can do it.

The willingness to add the name of the company in the list doesn't implicate an effort from who is willing to do it.
To add the name of your company could simply mean write the name of the company on a paper, or add the company name in a page of a website. It would require an effort if the names of the companies are carved in stone, or if I would need to persuade three people to vote for adding the company.

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