verb dal·ly \ˈda-lē\

Definition of dally




  1. intransitive verb
  2. 1a :  to act playfully; especially :  to play amorouslyb :  to deal lightly :  toy <accused him of dallying with a serious problem>

  3. 2a :  to waste timeb :  linger, dawdle



Examples of dally in a sentence

  1. Please don't dally. We need you here right away.

  2. The two of us dallied over our coffee that morning.

Did You Know?

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.

Origin and Etymology of dally

Middle English dalyen, from Anglo-French dalier

First Known Use: 15th century

Synonym Discussion of 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 (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>.

DALLY Defined for English Language Learners


verb dal·ly \ˈda-lē\

Definition of dally for English Language Learners

  • : to do something slowly or too slowly

DALLY Defined for Kids


verb dal·ly \ˈda-lē\

Definition of dally for Students



  1. 1 :  to act playfully <Boys and girls dallied at the dance.>

  2. 2 :  to waste time <I dallied at my desk and didn't finish my homework.>

  3. 3 :  linger 1, dawdle <Don't dally on your way home.>

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up dally? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to handle or deal with in a skillful way

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