dal·​ly | \ ˈda-lē How to pronounce dally (audio) \
dallied; dallying

Definition of dally

intransitive verb

1a : to act playfully especially : to play amorously
b : to deal lightly : toy accused him of dallying with a serious problem
2a : to waste time

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Other Words from dally

dallier noun

Choose the Right Synonym for dally

trifle, toy, dally, flirt, coquet mean to deal with or act toward without serious purpose. trifle may imply playfulness, unconcern, indulgent contempt. to trifle with a lover's feelings toy implies acting without full attention or serious exertion of one's powers. a political novice toying with great issues dally suggests indulging in thoughts or plans merely as an amusement. dallying with the idea of building a boat someday flirt implies an interest or attention that soon passes to another object. flirted with one fashionable ism after another coquet implies attracting interest or admiration without serious intention. companies that coquet with environmentalism solely for public relations

delay, procrastinate, lag, loiter, dawdle, dally mean to move or act slowly so as to fall behind. delay usually implies a putting off of something (such as a beginning or departure). we cannot delay any longer procrastinate implies blameworthy delay especially through laziness or apathy. procrastinates about making decisions lag implies failure to maintain a speed set by others. lagging behind in technology loiter and dawdle imply delay while in progress, especially in walking, but dawdle more clearly suggests an aimless wasting of time. loitered at several store windows children dawdling on their way home from school dally suggests delay through trifling or vacillation when promptness is necessary. stop dallying and get to work

The Evolution of Dally

English speakers have been playing with different uses of dally since the 14th century. They first started using the word with the meaning "to chat," which was also the meaning of the Anglo-French word from which it was derived, but that meaning fell into disuse by the end of the 15th century. Next, dalliers were amusing themselves by acting playfully with each other especially in amorous and flirtatious ways. Apparently, some dalliers were also a bit derisive, leading dally to mean "to deal with lightly or in a way that is not serious." It didn't take long for the fuddy-duddies to criticize all this play as a waste of time. By the mid-16th century, dally was weighted down with its "to waste time" and "dawdle" meanings, which, in time, gave way to the word dillydally, a humorous reduplication of dally.

Examples of dally in a Sentence

Please don't dally. We need you here right away. The two of us dallied over our coffee that morning.
Recent Examples on the Web The deadline for submitting ideas for the next set has also been extended until Sept. 1, so don’t dilly-dally with yours. Adam Lashinsky, Fortune, "Behind the complete collapse of business at Yelp," 10 Apr. 2020 Before taking control of the Gaullist party in 1976, Mr. Chirac dallied with the Communist and Socialist Parties. New York Times, "Jacques Chirac, Who Led France Envisioning European Unity, Is Dead at 86," 26 Sep. 2019 No unplugged shows for her, no Bon Iver covers or dallying with avant-garde producers: David Guetta and Sia will do, thank you very much. New York Times, "Celine Dion, a Consummate Professional, With Winks Galore," 29 Feb. 2020 WikiLeaks has also been accused of serving as a conduit for Russian misinformation, and Assange has alienated some supporters by dallying with populist politicians including Brexit-promoter Nigel Farage. NBC News, "Assange put lives at risk, lawyer for U.S. says in extradition hearing," 24 Feb. 2020 In an attempt to egg him on through jealousy, Ness herself has been dallying, with unfortunate consequences. Clair Wills, The New York Review of Books, "Love in Plague Time," 7 Jan. 2020 Harry Kane scored the crucial goal five minutes from the end after Jack Grealish was caught dallying on the ball, and the Villa captain was punished by the clinical striker. SI.com, "Tottenham 3-1 Aston Villa: Report, Ratings & Reaction as Subdued Spurs Sneak Past Valiant Villa," 10 Aug. 2019 Enough dilly dallying, when are the Broncos going to put in Drew Lock as their starting quarterback? Ryan O’halloran, The Denver Post, "Broncos Mailbag: When will organization admit that John Elway is the biggest problem?," 26 Nov. 2019 Books are meant to be long, dallying detours into other worlds. BostonGlobe.com, "“A book is a sequence of spaces.," 12 Sep. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'dally.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of dally

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for dally

Middle English dalyen, from Anglo-French dalier

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The first known use of dally was in the 15th century

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Cite this Entry

“Dally.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dally. Accessed 8 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for dally


How to pronounce dally (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of dally

: to do something slowly or too slowly


dal·​ly | \ ˈda-lē How to pronounce dally (audio) \
dallied; dallying

Kids Definition of dally

1 : to act playfully Boys and girls dallied at the dance.
2 : to waste time I dallied at my desk and didn't finish my homework.
3 : linger sense 1, dawdle Don't dally on your way home.

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More from Merriam-Webster on dally

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for dally

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with dally

Spanish Central: Translation of dally

Nglish: Translation of dally for Spanish Speakers

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