Try Our Apps


90s Slang You Should Know


[shil-ee-shal-ee] /ˈʃɪl iˌʃæl i/
verb (used without object), shilly-shallied, shilly-shallying.
to show indecision or hesitation; be irresolute; vacillate.
to waste time; dawdle.
noun, plural shilly-shallies.
irresolution; indecision; vacillation:
It was sheer shilly-shally on his part.
irresolute; undecided; vacillating.
Origin of shilly-shally
1690-1700; orig. repeated question, shall I? shall I? later altered on the model of its synonym dilly-dally
Related forms
shilly-shallier, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
Cite This Source
Examples from the Web for shilly-shally
Historical Examples
  • The Kaiser, instead of taking strong measures at once, pursued his usual policy of shilly-shally.

    The Story of Nuremberg Cecil Headlam
  • shilly-shally, to trifle or fritter away time; to be irresolute.

    The Slang Dictionary John Camden Hotten
  • There is no use in this shilly-shally way of yours, St. Clare!

    Uncle Tom's Cabin Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • Drapery it was, and quickly; for Mrs. Munsey was not wont to shilly-shally.

    Tales of Mean Streets Arthur Morrison
  • They are monopolists—severe monopolists; shilly-shally is one of their monopolies.

  • Strange that people will have so much faith in shilly-shally!

  • Perhaps, when it is over you will be sorry for your shilly-shally stand off—no, I won't say it.

    The Lady of Lynn Walter Besant
  • He mustn't palter, or trifle, or shilly-shally about that iron certainty.

    The Devil's Garden W. B. Maxwell
  • I'm not going to be stopped by any shilly-shally nonsense, when my future respectability, perhaps, is at stake.

    He Knew He Was Right Anthony Trollope
  • They shilly-shally, they pick and choose, they discuss, they criticise.

Word Origin and History for shilly-shally

"to vacillate," 1782, from adverbial expression to stand shilly-shally (1703), earlier shill I, shall I (1700), a fanciful reduplication of shall I? (cf. wishy-washy, dilly-dally, etc.). From 1734 as an adjective, by 1755 as a noun. Related: Shilly-shallying (1816).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
Cite This Source
Slang definitions & phrases for shilly-shally



To vacillate; be irresolute: For god sake, stop shilly-shallying and make up your mind

[1782+; found by 1700 in form shill I shall I]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
Cite This Source

Word of the Day

Difficulty index for shilly-shally

Few English speakers likely know this word

Word Value for shilly

Scrabble Words With Friends

Nearby words for shilly-shally