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From shall I. Shill-I-shall-I was an older form.


shilly-shally (third-person singular simple present shilly-shallies, present participle shilly-shallying, simple past and past participle shilly-shallied)

  1. To procrastinate.
    • 1836, Baron Edward Bulwer Lytton Lytton, Paul Clifford in The works of Edward Lytton Bulwer, esq. in two volumes, Volume 1, Page 633
      "Why, you sees [sic], Captain, your time has come, and you can't shilly-shally any longer. You have had your full swing; your years are up, and you must die like a man!"
    • 1866, Charles Reade, Griffith Gaunt, in The Argosy: Volume 2 - Page 16, published by Strahan and Co.
      "She would have come a few months ago, and gladly: I'll write to her."
      "Better talk to her, and persuade her."
      "I'll do that too, but I must write to her first".
      "So do then; but whatever you do, don't shilly-shally no longer."
    • 1867, The Nation: A Weekly Journal Devoted to Politics, Literature, Science, and Art (Volume 4), Page 215
      However the resolutions seem merely calculated to waste time, as they involve a whole preliminary discussion before the really important matters can be settled. If the Liberal party were sincere, there would doubtless be an attempt to turn out the Government at once, on the ground that such shilly-shallying with a matter of such importance cannot be allowed
  2. To vacillate.
    • 1991, Michael Duffy, "The Two George Bushes: At Home—A Case of Doing Nothing," Time, 7 January
      The shilly-shallying performance on domestic issues that has marked Bush's first two years in office is not the result of ineptitude.

Derived terms[edit]


shilly-shally (comparative more shilly-shally, superlative most shilly-shally)

  1. Indecisive; wavering.
    • George Eliot
      Irwine would think him a shilly-shally fellow ever after.



  1. Indecision; irresolution.

See also[edit]