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willy-nilly

[wil-ee-nil-ee]
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adverb
  1. in a disorganized or unplanned manner; sloppily.
  2. whether one wishes to or not; willingly or unwillingly: He'll have to do it willy-nilly.
adjective
  1. shilly-shallying; vacillating.
  2. disorganized, unplanned; sloppy: willy-nilly work.

Origin of willy-nilly

1600–10; from the phrase will ye, nill ye. See will1, nill
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for willy-nilly

Historical Examples

  • "Sir laggard, I knew that willy-nilly you would follow me," she cried.

    The Tavern Knight

    Rafael Sabatini

  • Cynthia may fret and fume and stamp, but willy-nilly I shall carry her away.

    The Tavern Knight

    Rafael Sabatini

  • You are the three volume man with the happy ending tacked on willy-nilly.

    Melomaniacs

    James Huneker

  • This was actually done, and our friend was present willy-nilly.

    A Labrador Doctor

    Wilfred Thomason Grenfell

  • At Jamestown, willy-nilly, the old Governor was forced to promise reforms.


British Dictionary definitions for willy-nilly

willy-nilly

adverb
  1. whether desired or not
  2. haphazardly
adjective
  1. occurring or taking place whether desired or not
  2. occurring haphazardly

Word Origin

Old English wile hē, nyle hē, literally: will he or will he not; nyle, from ne not + willan to will 1
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for willy-nilly

c.1600, contraction of will I, nill I, or will he, nill he, or will ye, nill ye, literally "with or without the will of the person concerned." See nill + will (v.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper