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Alternative forms[edit]


As used originally,‘will he, nill he’ or ‘will ye, nill ye’, which means ‘be he/ye willing, be he/ye unwilling’ or ‘if he is/you are willing, if he is/you are unwilling’; see will, nill.[1]



willy-nilly (comparative more willy-nilly, superlative most willy-nilly)

  1. Whether desired or not.
    • 1954, Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception, Chatto & Windus, page 36:
      The outer world is what we wake up to every morning of our lives, is the place where, willy-nilly, we must try to make our living.
    • 1894, Thomas Hardy, Hearts Insurgent, in Harper's Magazine, Volume XC, Number 536, page 195:
      He says he shall come for me willy-nilly, and father and mother say I must have him!
  2. Without regard for consequences or the will of those affected.
    So people chasing money churn out novels willy-nilly.
  3. Seemingly at random, haphazardly
    The novel Alice in Wonderland describes a place where random things happen all willy-nilly.



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  1. ^ Willy-nilly, World Wide Words, by Michael Quinion