Nearby words

  1. shillelagh,
  2. shilling,
  3. shilling mark,
  4. shillong,
  5. shilluk,
  6. shillyshally,
  7. shiloh,
  8. shilpit,
  9. shily,
  10. shim

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 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for 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


verb -lies, -lying or -lied

(intr) to be indecisive, esp over unimportant matters; hesitate


in an indecisive manner


indecisive or hesitant

noun plural -lies

indecision or hesitation; vacillation
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).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper