willy-nilly

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English[edit]

Alternative forms[edit]

Etymology[edit]

From an original will I, nill I, or will he, nill he, or will ye, nill ye, which means if I/he/ye are willing, if I/he/ye are not willing, that is whether I/he/ye are willing or not; see will, nill.[1]

Pronunciation[edit]

  • IPA(key): /ˌwɪliˈnɪli/
  • (file)

Adverb[edit]

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.

Synonyms[edit]

Translations[edit]

The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout#Translations.

Adjective[edit]

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

  1. vacillating

References[edit]

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