What’s the difference between “voli” and “deziri”? This has bothered me for a while, and so just before I descend into using them interchangeably, I’ve decided to look to see if there is any real difference.
Both of them often translate to “to want” or “to wish”.
If you look in the Lernu.net dictionary, you’ll get:
- voli = to wish, to want
- deziri = to desire, to wish
Now, in English, when I look up “want versus desire”, I get things saying that “desire” is simply a stronger “want”.
In Esperanto, as with any nuance, there are many people who simply use the two words interchangeably. However, beyond this, I’ve found a couple of accounts of what the difference could be.
Firstly, by looking around many past posts on the Lernu.net forums, I often find this distinction:
- “Deziri” describes a wanting, but only for o-words (nouns).
- “Voli” describes a wanting, but only for verbs.
Thus, “mi deziras pomon” = “I want an apple”, and “mi volas iri” = “I want to go”. But you wouldn’t say “mi deziras iri” and vice versa.
An explanation for this went along the lines of “voli” is wanting to do something, and “deziri” is wanting a concrete thing.
Which makes the distinction more tangible in my opinion, because the noun/verb distinction seems a little arbitrary:
So you might say “mi volas iri por ferio” = “I want to go for a holiday”. But do you really have to change to “deziri” just to say “mi volas ferion” = “I want a holiday”? Seems a bit arbitrary!
Anyways, the Reta-Vortaro provided a slightly different distinction, which some people on Lernu referenced too:
- Deziri = Consciously have a tendency toward (be inclined to/feel like) something; aspire to possess or enjoy something.
- Voli = To have a desire, intention, decision, or feel a need about something or someone.
It notes a difference between them being that “voli” often implies an intention to do something in order to make come true the desired thing. Which kinda makes sense, given that it comes from the same kinda root as English “volition”. And “volo” (the noun form) means “will” (e.g. in “free will”).
People also note that the meaning of “voli” in practice has drifted to encompass a lot of what “deziri” means, due to people using them interchangeably (*sad face*).
This is what I’m thinking of going with:
- Assume the noun/verb thing is just a rule of thumb.
- Drive a distinction between the two words, for a bit of variation (given that people will know what I mean, but may not get the small perhaps unimportant nuance), but be aware that when I use “deziri” many would prefer “voli”.
The distinction I will use is the following:
- I will use “voli” when I wish to emphasise intention, will, or decision being involved (e.g. want to understand, or want to lose weight)
- I will use “deziri” to describe tendencies/inclinations. Or to describe something I wish to enjoy, or use it if I do not wish to emphasise a willingness to acquire the thing I desire.
In light of the comments on this post, I’ve modified the point below (which was my original last point). This is what I originally thought:
- I also consider “voli”, given its addition of will/intention, to be a stronger desire than “deziri”. So in everyday speech, I will probably use “deziri” for concrete objects that I just happen to want (momentary inclination), like an apple, even if I’m extending a hand to get the thing as I talk!
I now think this:
- Given the implication of will/intention in “voli”, I consider it a slightly different kind of wanting to “deziri”. Just because one word includes the will to attain what is desired, doesn’t necessarily mean the desire is stronger. For this purpose one would use the intensifying suffix “-eg”. “Deziregi” is like “to greatly desire” . However, the inclusion of “aspire” in the definition of “deziri” and its comparison to words like “bezoni”, suggest that “deziri” has at least some deeper wanting behind it than “voli”.
Anyone disagree? Got a better idea?
EVEN MORE EDIT:
I may update this post soon, in light of the PIV coming online!