• synonyms


See more synonyms for shilly-shally on Thesaurus.com
verb (used without object), shil·ly-shal·lied, shil·ly-shal·ly·ing.
  1. to show indecision or hesitation; be irresolute; vacillate.
  2. to waste time; dawdle.
Show More
noun, plural shil·ly-shal·lies.
  1. irresolution; indecision; vacillation: It was sheer shilly-shally on his part.
Show More
  1. irresolute; undecided; vacillating.
Show More
  1. irresolutely.
Show More

Origin of shilly-shally

1690–1700; orig. repeated question, shall I? shall I? later altered on the model of its synonym dilly-dally
Related formsshil·ly-shal·li·er, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for shillyshally

hesitate, dawdle, waffle, seesaw, waver, fluctuate, dither, oscillate, differ, divide, modify, diverge, range, diversify, alter, distrust, suspect, impugn, rotate, vary

Examples from the Web for shillyshally

Historical Examples of shillyshally

  • You've got to shillyshally, and then you've got to go it blind.

    April Hopes

    William Dean Howells

  • Then a lot of shillyshally usually followed, Tom for and Dick and Harry against.


    James Joyce

British Dictionary definitions for shillyshally


verb -lies, -lying or -lied
  1. (intr) to be indecisive, esp over unimportant matters; hesitate
Show More
  1. in an indecisive manner
Show More
  1. indecisive or hesitant
Show More
noun plural -lies
  1. indecision or hesitation; vacillation
Show More
Derived Formsshillyshallier, noun

Word Origin for shillyshally

C18: from shill I shall I, by reduplication of shall I
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 shillyshally



"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).

Show More
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper