[ wil-ee-nil-ee ]
/ ˈwɪl iˈnɪl i /


in a disorganized or unplanned manner; sloppily.
whether one wishes to or not; willingly or unwillingly: He'll have to do it willy-nilly.


shilly-shallying; vacillating.
disorganized, unplanned; sloppy: willy-nilly work.

Nearby words

  1. wills, helen newington,
  2. willstätter,
  3. willstätter, richard,
  4. willy,
  5. willy wagtail,
  6. willy-willy,
  7. willyard,
  8. willywacks,
  9. wilma,
  10. wilmer

Origin of willy-nilly

1600–10; from the phrase will ye, nill ye. See will1, nill

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

Examples from the Web for willy-nilly

British Dictionary definitions for willy-nilly


/ (ˌwɪlɪˈnɪlɪ) /


whether desired or not


occurring or taking place whether desired or not
occurring haphazardly

Word Origin for willy-nilly

Old English wile hē, nyle hē, literally: will he or will he not; nyle, from ne not + willan to will 1

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 willy-nilly


c.1600, contraction of will I, nill I, or will he, nill he, or will ye, nill ye, literally "with or without the will of the person concerned." See nill + will (v.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper