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See also: Dolly


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Etymology 1[edit]

From doll +‎ -y, from the given name Dorothy, originally applied either to a woman or female pet or to a children's toy, and expanded to refer to various types of contrivances or devices.[1] The Online Etymology Dictionary, while considering the reason for applying it to such devices unobvious, compares how the names jack, jenny and jimmy are also applied to devices.[2]

Alternative forms[edit]


dolly (plural dollies)

  1. (childish, colloquial) A doll.
    • 1867 July 1, S.T.C., “The Harleys of Chelsea Place”, in The Christian Treasury, page 344:
      ‘He pushed one of my dolly’s eyes in,’ sobbed Dora, hugging her dolly as she replied.
  2. (cooking) A roughly cylindrical wooden object used as a base when molding pie crust.
  3. A contrivance for stirring:
    1. A disc with downward legs and a vertical handle, used for agitating laundry.
      Synonym: posser
      • 1840, R. White (Auctioneer), Sale at Woodhouse Place, near Mansfield. Catalogue of the valuable and useful household furniture [etc.], Third Day's Sale. Wednesday, November 4th, 1840:
        1 Dolly tub and pegs
        2 Mangle
        3 Washing machine
      • 1986, Patricia Malcolmson, English Laundresses: A Social History, 1850-1930[2], page 30:
        In its most common form, the dolly was a four- or five-legged stool attached to an upright handle about three feet long with a crossbar handle at the top.
    2. A device turned on a vertical axis by a handle or a winch, giving a circular motion to ore being washed.
      • 1840, Andrew Ure, A Dictionary of Arts, Manufactures, and Mines[3], page 751:
        The dolly tub or rinsing bucket, fig. 630., has an upright shaft which bears the vane or dolly a b, turned by the winch handle.
  4. A tool with an indented head for shaping the head of a rivet.
    • 1864, William Newton, “To Andrew Shanks, of Robert-street, Adelphi, for an improved rivetting machine”, in Newton's London Journal of Arts[4], page 279:
      A, is the steam or air cylinder for forcing the dolly B, hard against the rivet head while rivetting: when used for making rivets the dolly B, is unshipped, and the rivet heading apparatus substituted.
  5. In pile driving, a block interposed between the head of the pile and the ram of the driver.
  6. A small truck with a single wide roller used for moving heavy beams, columns, etc., in bridge building.
  7. A small truck without means of steering, to be slipped under a load.
  8. A compact, narrow-gauge locomotive used for moving construction trains, switching, etc.
  9. (film) A specialized piece of film equipment resembling a little cart on which a camera is mounted.
  10. (slang) A young woman, especially one who is frivolous or vapid. [from 1790s][3]
    • 1978, John McGrath, Yobbo nowt, page 39:
      But really you get your money from selling things — that's your line, and your Dad's isn't it? Using sexy dollies to con money out of people who've had to work for it. Well my daughter's not just a sugar-plum fairy to titillate men's fantasies, you know.
    • 1996, Billboard (number 45, page 24)
      This glorious collection should be passed around clubland as a textbook study in making a seamless transition from being a disco dolly to a serious pop vocalist.
  11. (slang, UK, dated) A fashionable young woman, one who follows the latest music or clothing fashions. [1960s]
    • 1969 April 8, Prudence Glynn, “246 yards of fashion”, in The Times, page 6:
      Spotlight on the other hand is remarkable for prices and skirt lengths to suit the teenyboppers [] Appeal: to a lunchtime horde of date-going dollies who cannot really afford another dress.
  12. (cricket, dated) A ball hit by a batsman such that it goes gently to a fielder for a simple catch.
  13. (gambling) A marker placed on the winning number by the dealer at roulette.
Derived terms[edit]
  • Welsh: doli
See also[edit]


dolly (third-person singular simple present dollies, present participle dollying, simple past and past participle dollied)

  1. (transitive, cricket) To hit a dolly.
  2. (transitive) To move (an object) using a dolly.
  3. (transitive) To wash (laundry) in a tub using the stirring device called a dolly.
  4. (transitive) To beat (red-hot metal) with a hammer.
  5. (transitive) To crush ore with a dolly.

Etymology 2[edit]

Disputed. Most scholars derive the term from doll +‎ -y, as Etymology 1, above.[4][3] Linguist Ian Hancock, however, suggests derivation from Italian dolce (sweet).[5]


dolly (comparative more dolly, superlative most dolly)

  1. (Polari) Pretty; attractive.
    • 1967, Kenneth Horne, Bona Bijou Tourettes (Round the Horne), season 3, episode 12:
      Divine. Sitting, sipping a tiny drinkette, vadaïng the great butch omis and dolly little palones trolling by, or disporting yourself on the sable plage getting your lallies all bronzed - your riah getting bleached by the soleil.
    • 2015 October 12, Lowe, Adam, “Poem of the week: Vada That”, in The Guardian[5]:
      She minces past the brandy latch / to vada dolly dish for trade, silly / with oomph and taste to park.
  2. (Yorkshire, especially Sheffield) left-handed (also dolly-handed, dolly-pawed, dolly-posh)[6]

Etymology 3[edit]

From Hindi डाली (ḍālī).[7]


dolly (plural dollies)

  1. (India) An offering of fruit or flowers.
    • 1891, Karl August Lentzner, Colonial English, page 65:
      In some parts of India the dolly has grown into an extravagance consisting sometimes of bushels of fruit, nuts, and confectionery, with bottles of champagne and liqueurs.
Alternative forms[edit]


  1. ^ dolly, n.1 Oxford English Dictionary, 1884–1928, and First Supplement, 1933.
  2. ^ Douglas Harper (2001–2023), “dolly”, in Online Etymology Dictionary.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Jonathon Green (2023), “dolly”, in Green's Dictionary of Slang
  4. ^ John Hajek (1990), “Parlaree: etymologies and notes”, in Spunti e Ricerche[1]
  5. ^ Hancock, Ian (1984), “Shelta and Polari”, in Peter Trudgill, editor, Languages in the British Isles, pages 384-403
  6. ^ “Sheffield dialect in the 1990s: revisiting the concept of NORMs”, in Urban Voices, London: Arnold, 1999, pages 72–89
  7. ^ dolly, n.2 Oxford English Dictionary, 1884–1928, and First Supplement, 1933.