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willy-nilly

[wil-ee-nil-ee]
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adverb
  1. in a disorganized or unplanned manner; sloppily.
  2. whether one wishes to or not; willingly or unwillingly: He'll have to do it willy-nilly.
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adjective
  1. shilly-shallying; vacillating.
  2. disorganized, unplanned; sloppy: willy-nilly work.
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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. 2018

Examples from the Web for willy-nilly

Historical Examples

  • "Sir laggard, I knew that willy-nilly you would follow me," she cried.

    The Tavern Knight

    Rafael Sabatini

  • Cynthia may fret and fume and stamp, but willy-nilly I shall carry her away.

    The Tavern Knight

    Rafael Sabatini

  • You are the three volume man with the happy ending tacked on willy-nilly.

    Melomaniacs

    James Huneker

  • This was actually done, and our friend was present willy-nilly.

    A Labrador Doctor

    Wilfred Thomason Grenfell

  • At Jamestown, willy-nilly, the old Governor was forced to promise reforms.


British Dictionary definitions for willy-nilly

willy-nilly

adverb
  1. whether desired or not
  2. haphazardly
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adjective
  1. occurring or taking place whether desired or not
  2. occurring haphazardly
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Word Origin

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.).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper