Definition of willy-nilly in English:


Line breaks: willy-nilly
Pronunciation: /wɪliˈnɪli


  • 1Whether one likes it or not: he would be forced to collaborate willy-nilly
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    • Caught up, willy-nilly, in lawlessness of a sort were also numberless worthy members of the public, who faced a stupefying barrage of emergency laws passed on sumptuary, economic and security grounds.
    • Now, 11 years later, he was the Chief Commissioner of the hill State of Manipur, and had willy-nilly to depute election officers and to supervise the polling and the counting.
    • But willy-nilly one must, come hail or thunderstorm.
    whether one likes it or not, of necessity, necessarily; one way or the other; Latin nolens volens
    informal like it or not, like it or lump it
    formal perforce
  • 2Without direction or planning; haphazardly: politicians expanded spending programmes willy-nilly
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    • ‘Businesses are not free to spend their money willy-nilly,’ she said.
    • There are some pieces of music that must be parceled out over a lifetime, and you don't want to spend their impact willy-nilly.
    • It was made perfectly clear that money will not be tipped onto a table for the town to spend willy-nilly on pet projects.
    haphazardly, at random, randomly, without planning, without method


early 17th century: later spelling of will I, nill I 'I am willing, I am unwilling'.

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