1 a : to act playfully; especially : to play amorously
b : to deal lightly : toy
2 a : to waste time
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.
He dithered and dallied, avoiding his work for as long as possible.
"Voters don't elect leaders to dally, stall, drag their feet and excel at the art of delay." —The Daily Chronicle (DeKalb, Illinois), 31 Dec. 2015
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Name That Synonym
The name of what bird is used as a verb meaning "to dally"?VIEW THE ANSWER
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