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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.
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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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  1. irresolute; undecided; vacillating.
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  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

Examples from the Web for shillyshally

Historical Examples

  • 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
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  1. in an indecisive manner
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  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

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).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper