Definition of shilly-shally in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈʃɪlɪʃali/

verb (shilly-shallies, shilly-shallying, shilly-shallied)

[no object]
Fail to act resolutely or decisively: the government shilly-shallied about the matter
More example sentences
  • Not even knowing to write the alphabets, he can read newspapers flawlessly without shilly-shallying, no matter how tough the word is.
  • ‘They then started shilly-shallying,’ she said.
  • However, I have been shilly-shallying, due to the cramped space of my flat and the densely inhabited area where I reside.
dither, be indecisive/irresolute, be undecided, be uncertain, be unsure, be doubtful, vacillate, waver, teeter, hesitate, oscillate, fluctuate, falter, drag one's feet;
British  haver, hum and haw;
Scottish  swither


[mass noun]
Indecisive behaviour: a no-nonsense lack of shilly-shally
More example sentences
  • He had had enough of the shilly-shallying that now dominates the game's upper echelons.
  • One result of this shilly-shallying is that much of the talk about liberty becomes a self-serving charade.
  • But it was so thrilling to be around someone who's been making films for so long that they know exactly what they want and how they want their world to look that there's no shilly-shallying.



(also shilly-shallier) noun
Example sentences
  • They opted instead for a policy of ‘splitting’ whereby the chaff of shilly-shallyers and equivocators could be shorn away to leave a core group of those absolutely committed to revolution at all costs.
  • It is the shilly-shalliers who have contributed most to the present deplorable state of your society.
  • The author has it in for politicians, liberals, student activists, pinkos and shilly-shallyers.


Mid 18th century: originally as shill I, shall I, reduplication of shall I?.

  • 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.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: shilly-shally

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