shilly-shally

adverb
\ ˈshi-lē-ˌsha-lē How to pronounce shilly-shally (audio) \

Definition of shilly-shally

 (Entry 1 of 4)

: in an irresolute, undecided, or hesitating manner

shilly-shally

adjective

Definition of shilly-shally (Entry 2 of 4)

shilly-shally

verb
shilly-shallied; shilly-shallying

Definition of shilly-shally (Entry 3 of 4)

intransitive verb

1 : to show hesitation or lack of decisiveness or resolution
2 : dawdle

shilly-shally

noun

Definition of shilly-shally (Entry 4 of 4)

Did you know?

Shall I? Shall I? When you just don't know what to do, it may feel as if asking that question twice will somehow help you decide. The 17th century saw the use of the phrase "stand shall I, shall I" to describe vacillation or indecision. By that century's end, the phrase had been altered to "shill I, shall I," most likely because people just liked the vowel alteration (that's the same process that gave us dillydally and wishy-washy). Soon after, the adverbial shilly-shally made the jump from slang to literature and writers began applying it as an adjective, a noun, and a verb as well.

First Known Use of shilly-shally

Adverb

1700, in the meaning defined above

Adjective

1734, in the meaning defined above

Verb

1754, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun

1755, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for shilly-shally

Adverb

irregular reduplication of shall I

Learn More About shilly-shally

Time Traveler for shilly-shally

Time Traveler

The first known use of shilly-shally was in 1700

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Dictionary Entries Near shilly-shally

Shilluk

shilly-shally

shillyshallyer

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Cite this Entry

“Shilly-shally.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/shilly-shally. Accessed 24 Sep. 2022.

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