When someone is forced to volunteer for something, he or she can be said to be volunteered. For example, if a manager asks an employee, could you volunteer to perform task X, then the employee may not practically be in a situation to say no; volunteer is used euphemistically.

I first heard this usage in 2014, but I first lived in a native English speaking country in 2014, so my experience does not say too much. Is this euphemistic usage of to be volunteered recent?

(See also: urbandictionary entry for volunteered)

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    Even more recent, some persons are now using the term "voluntold," suggesting "told to volunteer." – cobaltduck Feb 15 '17 at 20:04
  • @cobaltduck That one is easier to investigate because the word does not otherwise exist, but it's harder to measure this usage of "volunteered". Even searching for old books for "was volunteered" I get phrases like but I repelled the objection, on the ground that it was volunteered by the appellant. – gerrit Feb 15 '17 at 20:05
  • Sounds like the army. – Yosef Baskin Feb 15 '17 at 20:05
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    It's at least as old as the 1950s. Probably as old as English-speaking militaries... – Drew Feb 15 '17 at 22:53
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    I will note that there is nothing remarkable about the formation. It is obviously sarcastic/ironic, but it's the sort of thing that could easily be "invented" and instantly understood, so there's no reason to expect an "origin" or some "creation story". – Hot Licks Feb 16 '17 at 3:28

The answer obviously depends on your definition of "recent." It would be interesting to find the earliest usage of this term, but I did find one from 1999 1976, which significantly antedates your 2014 experience.

From Stage Lighting International:

We will draw a blank over the time when I was volunteered as stage manager...

I am confident that there are examples that come significantly before this, though I can't find them yet. One indication of this is that there are several early examples of a reflexive usage of "volunteer", such as this work from 1816:

Skelton, though his opinions inclined that way, having no offer of the same sort from the Bishop, thought it best not to volunteer himself in the cause.


The tvtropes.org has the following entry:

Got Volunteered

"Sergeant Tyree, I'm ordering you to volunteer again" — Cpt. Brittles, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon

  • A dirty, dangerous, and/or difficult job needs to get done, and nobody wants to do it. The boss is asking volunteers to step forward. No way are you going to get mixed up in a sticky situation like that. Your mama didn't raise no fool. Suddenly you are shoved forward by some of your "friends". The boss smiles. Wait — No! You just got volunteered!

I think it's a usage that originated in the army where voluntold that is voluntarily told is part of the jargon:

"Voluntarily Told," "Voluntold"

There are two different kinds of voluntold:

  • A. The gunny walks into the office and says, "Man, wouldn't the floor look nice if somebody buffed it?" Which means,"Buff the floor."

  • B. "I need two volunteers to stand out in front of Best Buy this Saturday collecting Toys for Tots."

  • "Jones, Smith, you're collecting Toys for Tots this weekend."



  • (U.S., Canada) A supposedly optional event, award, assignment, or activity in which a person (or persons) are required to attend either by persons-in-charge nominating them or their peers expecting them to be there. The individual often has no say in the matter, and non-attendance is frowned upon.


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    Is this answering the question? The OP mentioned to be volunteered not voluntold. – k1eran Feb 15 '17 at 20:21
  • @k1eran - It is the same concept, voluntold can also be heard in non military contexts, I think that the euphemistic usage originates in the army jargon. – user66974 Feb 15 '17 at 20:23
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    I had not heared voluntold before today. – gerrit Feb 16 '17 at 0:40

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