What is the difference in meaning between "свобода" and "воля" and also between "свободный" and "вольный"?

  • By the way, there is third synonym: вольность, which is closer to свобода than воля. Jul 14 '14 at 16:39
  • No, вольность or допустить вольность is "do something on your own", usually it's used in negative context. Воля and свобода is synonyms, but воля is also used as wish, for example The King's Wishes == Царская воля
    – aknew
    Jul 15 '14 at 11:38
  • @aknew, that too. But I did not talk about допустить вольность, but about вольность as ‘freedom’ in general sense: Чужой для всех, ничем не связан, / Я думал: вольность и покой / Замена счастью. Боже мой! [Пушкин], Он вольность хочет проповедать! _[Грибоедов]. It is not in use in modern colloquial speech of course. Jul 16 '14 at 3:06
  • There's also a word "волевой" (approximately "willed"), though it is not associated with freedom.
    – Vi.
    Jul 17 '14 at 17:46
  • Wasn't "вольность" in "Он вольность хочет проповедать" also used in negative meaning? Anyway, in modern Russian "вольность" is certainly used in the expression "допустить вольность", and only "воля" can have such connotation. I'd say "свобода" has strong associations with expanse, large spaces, not being restricted or suppressed in any way. "Воля" is more about doing as you please and also not being in captivity — which provides a basis for uses in negative contexts because doing as you wish may not be good for others, depending on what you do exactly.
    – Shady_arc
    Jul 19 '14 at 0:56

свобода (свободный) и воля (вольный) have many meanings. And only few of them are synonymous. Let's take a look at those synonymous meanings by way of examples:

  • вольный/свободный народ/люди/жизнь
  • вольный ветер - I wouldn't use свободный here
  • вольная/свободная продажа, по вольным/свободным ценам

  • волен/свободен поступать, как хочет

  • слишком свободное/вольное поведение
  • свободные движения, свободное дыхание, свободно говорить по-французски - can't be replaced with вольный here

So the main difference to my mind is that свобода means that there are barriers and the subject is free from them. So usually we don't say свободный ветер because you can't possibly imagine barriers for a wind. But movements, breath, speech can be restricted and so you can be free from limitations.

Likewise воля has a hidden connotation that the subject wants something (that's his will and hence the freedom to do it). So a wind is free to go wherever it wants and we say вольный to add human features such as will, willfulness, playfulness to the wind. And we can't say вольное дыхание because we breath, move, speak a foreign language not voluntarily , at least not in the big sense. And will is attributable only to humans.

One other thing worth mentioning here in this comparison is that воля, вольный are less frequent words. Don't use them unless you really know what you want to say. свободный ветер sounds almost fine, unlike вольное дыхание, which is ridiculous since breathing is a process not a human being.

  • 2
    вольная продажа, по вольным ценам is wrong. свободная продажа, по свободным ценам is only acceptable
    – iRet
    Jul 29 '14 at 16:09
  • You are right. My bad. I guess the logic here should be the same: selling as a process is a bit too far from an actor (human being) unlike behavior which is a direct attribute of a human controlled by his mind. Jul 30 '14 at 12:53

Вольный is based on воля root which could be translated as will noun.

Свободный could be synonym has also another meaning empty related to space.

Свобода is about freedom.

Воля is rather about free will, but could be used as antonym to captivity too.


There could be some addition to the previous answers. The words свобода and воля are pretty close to each to other and the use cases are depend, but saying generally:

  • свобода is about freedom of choice, a potential state of thinking and acting freely.

  • воля means will, it's more about a desired freedom (when someone who is not free wants to be free "хочет на волю" or "хочет быть на воле" or even "вызволен" - to be freed (by any means). Also it is about an inner state of mind and character of a person "У него есть сила воли (у него сильная воля), поэтому он легко бросил курить"

  • I would definitely add to your answer that "свобода" is very closely associated with the concept of "простор" or not being restricted in any way. Eg. "Выступление в 19:00. Вход свободный"/"свободная одежда", "легко и свободно дышится". Here, "вход свободный" looks deceptively similar to "entry is free" but actually more bases off the idea "one can attend the performance, enter the venue however they want with no restrictions". Obviously, "воля" does not have this direct connection to wide, open space and with no physical or moral restrictions.
    – Shady_arc
    Aug 2 '14 at 14:08

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