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
b : linger, dawdle

Keep scrolling for more

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 versatile treat not only dallies with various fillings, flavors, and glazes, but it can be found in different forms, shapes, and textures, too. Annika Hom, BostonGlobe.com, "Move over, ice cream! Doughnuts on the rise this summer," 21 June 2019 England inflicted much of the damage themselves as Stones dallied on the ball and after Pickford made a great save to deny Depay, Promes's follow-up deflected in off Walker. Kieran Canning, chicagotribune.com, "The Netherlands outclass England to reach Nations League final," 6 June 2019 Willkie’s heretofore sheepish fellow utility heads began to criticize the New Deal as well, including executives at General Electric, whose leadership had dallied with progressivism. Amity Shlaes, WSJ, "‘The Improbable Wendell Willkie’ Review: The Great Disruptor," 13 Sep. 2018 When Susan dallied, Lavinia turned to her sister’s friend and correspondent, the writer and editor Thomas Wentworth Higginson. Brenda Wineapple, WSJ, "‘After Emily’ Review: The Belles of Amherst," 25 Oct. 2018 Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images Conservatives had long dallied in race baiting, like the the push poll credited with dooming McCain in the 2000 presidential primary in South Carolina. Laura Mcgann, Vox, "John McCain, Sarah Palin, and the rise of reality TV politics," 26 Aug. 2018 Written as an undergraduate thesis at Amherst, where the novel occasionally dallies, Wallace tackles disappearing nursing home residents, talking cockatiels, and American society on rampage. Adrienne Westenfeld, Town & Country, "The Ultimate Preppy College Reading List," 3 Oct. 2014 The other, dallying behind the main group, has had a less productive evening. Rory Smith, New York Times, "Martin Odegaard’s Second Act on a Smaller Stage," 1 Feb. 2018 New resident Adrienne is a former movie actress who has no problem dallying with the romantic feelings both men have for her. Elizabeth Marie Himchak, Pomerado News, "REVIEW: PowPAC play uses humor to address life changes," 28 Mar. 2018

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about dally

Listen to Our Podcast about dally

Statistics for dally

Last Updated

1 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for dally

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for dally



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.

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on dally

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with dally

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for dally

Spanish Central: Translation of dally

Nglish: Translation of dally for Spanish Speakers

Comments on dally

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


a wrong name or inappropriate designation

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Summer 2019 Words of the Day Quiz

  • a-bowl-of-peach-sorbet-with-cut-peaches-next-to-it
  • Which is a synonym of desideratum?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!