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shilly-shally

[shil-ee-shal-ee]
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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.
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noun, plural shil·ly-shal·lies.
  1. irresolution; indecision; vacillation: It was sheer shilly-shally on his part.
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adjective
  1. irresolute; undecided; vacillating.
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adverb
  1. irresolutely.
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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.

    Ulysses

    James Joyce


British Dictionary definitions for shillyshally

shillyshally

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

shilly-shally

v.

"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).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper