1 : to show hesitation or lack of decisiveness or resolution
2 : dawdle
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.
"As for buying Concord grapes at either a farm stand or a supermarket, the rule of thumb is, when you see them, claim them. Don't shilly-shally, because the season for this most coveted of grapes is fleeting." — Heidi Legenbauer Williams, The Daily Gazette (Schenectady, New York), 9 Sept. 2016
"He chaired a meeting this month that called on reluctant officials not to shilly-shally with economic and social reforms…." — The Economist, 18 Feb. 2017
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Name That Synonym
Fill in the blanks to complete a synonym of shilly-shally: b _ g _ _ e.VIEW THE ANSWER
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