noun (used with a plural verb) Informal.

nervousness or fright; jitters; creeps (usually preceded by the): That horror movie gave me the willies.

Origin of willies

1895–1900, Americanism; origin obscure; cf. -s3




a male given name, form of William.
a female given name.


or wil·ley


noun, plural wil·lies.

verb (used with object), wil·lied, wil·ly·ing.

to willow (cotton).

Origin of willy

1825–35; special use of dial. willy, Old English wilige basket (orig. one made of willow twigs); akin to willow
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for willies

Historical Examples of willies

  • The "Willies" themselves had had the best of care and attention.

    Life in a Tank

    Richard Haigh

  • If I'm in for having a trained nurse do it for me, it'll give me the Willies.

    T. Tembarom

    Frances Hodgson Burnett

  • They give me the jimjams, the willies, and I want to get away.

    A Yankee in the Far East

    George Hoyt Allen

  • It was not Willies knock, she knew, but it might be news of Willie.

  • He is quite good at the Willies,24 and so I think we have got a fair chance.

    Sixty Squadron R.A.F.

    Group-Captain A. J. L. Scott

British Dictionary definitions for willies


pl n

the willies slang nervousness, jitters, or fright (esp in the phrase give (or get) the willies)

Word Origin for willies

C20: of unknown origin



British informal a childish or jocular term for penis
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 willies

1896, "spell of nervousness," perhaps from the woollies, a dialectal term for "nervous uneasiness," probably in reference to the itchiness of wool garments.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with willies


see under the creeps.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.