I understand nolle to be short for non volle, i.e. "not to wish/want".

I thought noli was the imperative form of this: non vo—er, wait a minute, volo has no imperative!

So, what's noli? The usual explanation is that it literally means "Be unwilling", but what about the missing voli?

  • 2
    Curiously, nōlī has been semantically bleached to the point that nōlī velle is attested for the actual "be unwilling" meaning.
    – Draconis
    Commented Jul 23, 2017 at 4:36
  • 1
    And even more curiously, the only "imperative" uses I've found use the second person subjunctive velīs rather than *volī
    – Draconis
    Commented Jul 23, 2017 at 4:42
  • Related question: What is the imperative of velle?
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Jul 26, 2017 at 14:10
  • "nōlī velle" would be redundant, like "non veli velle".
    – Quidam
    Commented Nov 26, 2019 at 16:57

2 Answers 2


I suppose in all the dictionaries it appears:

Noli: Imperative present of nolo.

Nolle: Infinitive present of nolo .

Nolo: (...) Noli is used as an imperative in prohibitions (with similar words).

It is necessary to consider that there are "twist idiomatic" in the expressions of:

  • Implore.
  • Order.
  • Prohibition.

These forms are usually addressed in the grammar books in the sections dedicated to the imperative.

Noli is one of the 4 "twist idiomatic" used in classical literature: Noli (nolite) + infinitive: noli (nolite) facere, do not do it. It was (and must be considered) a courteous prohibition, do not want, do not want to do, in which the imperative of nolo softens the negative order. The use made forget that primitive nuance of courtesy.

  • The most frequent turn is: Cicero: nolite existumare, do not go to believe. Noli putare, do not think.

  • In poetry developed an analogical spin: parce + infinitive. Parce timere, do not be afraid.

Other forms of classical prose ban (summary):

  • Ne (cave) + perfect subjunctive.

  • Ne (cave) + present subjunctive.

  • Ne + imperative.

In addition, it would be necessary to take into account the imperfect and pluscuamperfect of subjunctive that reflect order or prohibition to the past, that is, what someone would have wanted someone to do or not in a given circumstance: faceres, to have done; fecisset, that would have done.

The forms of imperative of volo are realized by those of nolo, in fact nolo is especially frequent in imperative, see usage notes of nolo: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/nolo#Latin


I've found that:

Nolo (non-volo)
Non vis (rarer nevis)
Non vult
Nolit (non velit)
Nolim (non velim)
Nolis (non velis)
Nolumus (non volumus)
Nolimus (non volimus)
Non vultis
Nolitis (non velitis)
Nolunt (non volunt)
Nolint (non velint)

Imperative forms: noli (sing.)/nolite (plur.)

Source: Latin, an intensive course (De Floyd L. Moreland, Rita M. Fleischer)

According to this book "nolo", for instance, is used for "non volo", in assertive sentences, but they don't tell us whether the contraction is mandatory. (It seems to be?)

Considering the pattern, for instance "non velint" = Nolint:

  1. They removed the final "n" of "non", to keep "no".
  2. They removed the first syllabe "ve" from "velint".
  3. Very short words don't contract (non vis).
  4. Some other words don't contract, we don't know why (Non vultis, and not Notis)

When it's "volunt", they do the same, they remove the first syllabe "vo".
Nolle would be Non+velle.

So, if this pattern is regular, "noli" would be a contraction of "non veli", and "nolite" of "non velite".
I've found occurrences of them in texts.

  • You've found occurrences of "nōn velī" and "nōn velīte" in texts? Don't leave us on a cliff-hanger, share them! Also, you should correct your explanation: nōlō, nōlint etc are of course contractions of nevolō, nevelint (you even cite nevīs). Nōn cannot contract - not only that, it was one syllable longer at the time all of these were formed. Commented Nov 27, 2019 at 14:24
  • I won't correct the explanation because it's not mine: I've only pasted the book content, as it is. I didn't say I've found "non veli", but considering the pattern given by this book, that is always the same, it's a valid hypothesis.
    – Quidam
    Commented Nov 28, 2019 at 4:56
  • Some books chose to use "non volo" and some books say it's "ne volo". Maybe older books chose one and more recent ones chose the other way, it's something that should be studied. If a book consider "ne-volo" (both explanations are common, and nobody agrees on the best one) If the "ne veli" is chosen, unlike in this book, the explanation simply has to be turned in "ne veli" instead of "non veli", it's simple.I'm not sure we could find more "ne veli" than "non veli", it seems to be very ancient forms of mandatory contractions.
    – Quidam
    Commented Nov 28, 2019 at 6:54
  • So... what did you "find occurrences of them in texts"? Is the part about "they removed etc" really from that book? Are you sure the books that give nōlō = nōn volō talk about etymology and not simple equivalence in meaning? Nevelī doesn't occur - it's been contracted into nōlī. Nē velīs occurs meaning "ut nōn velīs" and is never contracted. Perhaps then you could mention in the answer itself what you just mentioned to me about the different treatment by different books. Commented Nov 29, 2019 at 16:40
  • 1
    It's not clear at all that there are two points of view on this - you make no mention of the ne-volō derivation. Anyway, could you finally explain what occurrences you've found in texts? Commented Dec 2, 2019 at 18:11

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