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Shilly-shally

Definitions

  • Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
    • adv Shilly-shally In an irresolute, undecided, or hesitating manner. "I am somewhat dainty in making a resolution, because when I make it, I keep it; I don't stand shill-I-shall-I then; if I say 't, I'll do 't."
    • n Shilly-shally Irresolution; hesitation; also, occupation with trifles. "She lost not one of her forty-five minutes in picking and choosing, no shilly-shally in Kate."
    • v. i Shilly-shally To hesitate; to act in an irresolute manner; hence, to occupy one's self with trifles.
    • ***
Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
    • shilly-shally To act in an irresolute or undecided manner; hesitate.
    • shilly-shally In an irresolute or hesitating manner.
    • n shilly-shally Indecision; irresolution; foolish trifling.
    • ***
Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary
    • adv Shilly-shally shil′i-shal′i in silly hesitation
    • n Shilly-shally foolish trifling: irresolution
    • v.i Shilly-shally to hesitate
    • ***

Idioms

Shilly-shally - If people shilly-shally, they can't make up their minds about something and put off the decision.
***

Etymology

Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
A reduplication of shall I,

Usage

In literature:

No shilly- shally for me I I'd show them how the thing ought to be done!
"More About Peggy" by Mrs G. de Horne Vaizey
What's the use o' my stannin' shilly-shally hyar?
"The Lone Ranche" by Captain Mayne Reid
Now, listen; there must be no shilly-shallying on your part; we want every true patriot to draw the sword for his country.
"In Honour's Cause" by George Manville Fenn
Come, don't shilly-shally any longer, Paul Bevan.
"Twice Bought" by R.M. Ballantyne
What about the harm to me from all your theological shilly-shally?
"The Brentons" by Anna Chapin Ray
Shilly-shally belongs to us that be women.
"The Atlantic Monthly, Volume 17, No. 104, June, 1866" by Various
His shilly-shallying unnerved Mary; positive desertion would have been easier to bear.
"Mary Wollstonecraft" by Elizabeth Robins Pennell
But there might be, if I stand shilly-shallying here.
"The Death Shot" by Mayne Reid
No shilly-shallying with me.
"The Jucklins" by Opie Read
No longer I shilly-shallied.
"A Daughter of Raasay" by William MacLeod Raine
No shilly-shallying about me.
"Woman on Her Own, False Gods & The Red Robe" by Eugène Brieux
We will make no further pretence, and lest I lose you by further shilly-shallying, we will start upon our journey at once.
"Romance of Roman Villas" by Elizabeth W. (Elizbeth Williams) Champney
Come, come, have done with this shilly-shallying.
"The Scarlet Feather" by Houghton Townley
Some day you will rue this shilly-shallying.
"A Modern Cinderella" by Amanda M. Douglas
She never shilly-shallies, like you.
"Phoebe, Junior" by Mrs [Margaret] Oliphant
And at last he made up his mind there should be no more shilly-shallying.
"A Little Girl in Old Philadelphia" by Amanda Minnie Douglas
Were I to permit such shilly-shallying, George would have a right to reproach me with his wasted life.
"One of My Sons" by Anna Katharine Green
Why people put up with his shilly-shallying, I'm sure I don't know!
"Why Joan?" by Eleanor Mercein Kelly
You've been shilly-shallying long enough.
"The Boys of Old Monmouth" by Everett T. Tomlinson
I'll have no more letters nor no more shilly-shally.
"A History of Pendennis, Volume 1" by William Makepeace Thackeray
***

In poetry:

A lazy and careless boy was Jack,--
He would not work, and he would not play;
And so poor, that the jacket on his back
Hung in a ragged fringe alway;
But 'twas shilly-shally, dilly-dally,
From day to day.
"Jack And The Bean-Stalk" by Clara Doty Bates
And the Giant howled, and gnashed his teeth.
Jack got down first, and, in a flash,
Cut the ladder from underneath;
And Giant and Bean-stalk, in one dash,--
No shilly-shally, no dilly-dally,--
Fell with a crash.
"Jack And The Bean-Stalk" by Clara Doty Bates