Share this entry

Share this page

dilly-dally

Line breaks: dilly-dally
Pronunciation: /ˈdɪlɪdali
 
/

Definition of dilly-dally in English:

verb (dilly-dallies, dilly-dallying, dilly-dallied)

[no object] informal
Waste time through aimless wandering or indecision: don’t dilly-dally for too long
More example sentences
  • It's never too early to start loitering, and dilly-dallying.
  • Don't four-year-olds often dilly-dally, stall, and do just about everything slowly?
  • While they're dilly-dallying, my house is falling apart.
Synonyms
waste time, dally, dawdle, loiter, linger, take one's time, delay, mark time, kill time, while away time, potter, trifle, temporize, stall, procrastinate, drag one's feet, play a waiting game;
British haver, hum and haw;
Scottish swither
informal shilly-shally, blow hot and cold, let the grass grow under one's feet, pussyfoot around
archaic or literary tarry

Origin

early 17th century: reduplication of dally.

More
  • shilly-shally from (mid 18th century):

    People unable to make up their minds whether to do something are likely to ask themselves ‘Shall I?’ repeatedly. With the rhyming impulse also seen in dilly-dally (early 17th century) (dally came from the French for ‘to chat’ in the Middle Ages) and willy-nilly, people in the 18th century mocked this tendency by expanding it to ‘shill I, shall I?’, and so shilly-shally was born.

Words that rhyme with dilly-dally

Ali, alley, Allie, Ally, bally, dally, farfalle, galley, Halley, mallee, Mexicali, pally, Raleigh, rally, reveille, sally, tally, valley

Definition of dilly-dally in:

Share this entry

Share this page

 

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.

Get more from Oxford Dictionaries

Subscribe to remove ads and access premium resources

Word of the day Noel
Pronunciation: nōˈel
noun
Christmas…