Try Our Apps


Avoid these words. Seriously.


[wil-ee-nil-ee] /ˈwɪl iˈnɪl i/
in a disorganized or unplanned manner; sloppily.
whether one wishes to or not; willingly or unwillingly:
He'll have to do it willy-nilly.
shilly-shallying; vacillating.
disorganized, unplanned; sloppy:
willy-nilly work.
Origin of willy-nilly
1600-10; from the phrase will ye, nill ye. See will1, nill Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
Cite This Source
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.

  • Consequently, we are compelled, willy-nilly, to borrow from others.

    A Nobleman's Nest Ivan Turgenieff
  • One thing, willy-nilly, we have done,—or rather nature has done it for us.

    Expository Writing Mervin James Curl
  • The woman of the house called us about nine o'clock, and we had to get up "willy-nilly."

  • It is a part of Serbia, willy-nilly and it will continue to be so.

    After the Rain Sam Vaknin
  • Arms that seize resistless maidens and enfold them, willy-nilly!

    Nothing But the Truth Frederic S. Isham
British Dictionary definitions for willy-nilly


whether desired or not
occurring or taking place whether desired or not
occurring haphazardly
Word Origin
Old English wile hē, nyle hē, literally: will he or will he not; nyle, from ne not + willan to will1
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
Cite This Source
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
Cite This Source

Word of the Day

Nearby words for willy-nilly

Word Value for willy

Scrabble Words With Friends