From will I [or ye, he, or she], nill I [or ye, he, or she], meaning “if I am [or ye are, or he or she is] willing, if I am [or ye are, or he or she is] not willing”, that is, “whether I am [or ye are, or he or she is] willing or not”; see will (“to desire, wish”), nill (“(obsolete) to be unwilling”).
- Whether desired or not; without regard for the consequences or the wishes of those affected; whether willingly or unwillingly.
- Synonyms: (archaic) nilly-willy, nolens volens
- Some writers chasing money churn out novels willy-nilly.
- 1868, [Johann Wolfgang von] Goethe, Arthur Duke Coleridge, transl., Egmont. A Tragedy. […], London: Chapman & Hall, […], OCLC 1156446364, Act II, page 40:
- Whenever I see a long handsome neck, willy nilly, the thought will come uppermost—What a capital neck for carving! Those cursed executions! One can't rid one's mind of them.
- 1869 April 1, A. A. D., “Twelve Scenes in a Young Lady’s Life. No. IV. A Spring Ramble.”, in The Young Englishwoman. A Volume of Pure Literature, New Fashions, and Pretty Needlework Patterns, volume III, London: Ward, Lock, and Tyler, […], OCLC 63019949, stanza 1, page 220, column 1:
- I'll own I'm very glad he's come— / To hide my feelings would be silly— / You see I'm not so shy as some, / My thoughts will come out "willy-nilly."
- 1889, Walter Besant, “A Slight Thing at the Best”, in For Faith and Freedom […], volume II, London: Chatto & Windus, […], OCLC 21086636, page 243:
- [I]f you love him not, then you can love me, and, therefore, can come to please yourself, willy-nilly. What! am I to be thwarted in such a trifle? Willy-nilly, I say, I will marry thee. Come—we waste the time.
- 1895 January, Thomas Hardy, “Hearts Insurgent”, in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, volume XC, number DXXXVI, New York, N.Y.: Harper & Brothers, […], OCLC 924884025, chapter VIII, page 194, column 2:
- He says he shall come for me willy-nilly, and father and mother say I must have him! But I don't want to—because—because—I love you best!
- Seemingly at random; haphazardly.
- The novel Alice in Wonderland describes a place where things happen willy-nilly.
- 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.
- That happens whether willingly or unwillingly.
- Synonym: (archaic) nilly-willy
- 1882, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “The Promise of May”, in Locksley Hall Sixty Years After etc., London; New York, N.Y.: Macmillan and Co., published 1886, OCLC 19600983, Act II, page 119:
- O my God, if man be only / A willy-nilly current of sensations— / Reaction needs must follow revel—yet— / Why feel remorse, he, knowing that he must have / Moved in the iron grooves of Destiny?
- willy nilly (disambiguation) on Wikipedia.Wikipedia
- Michael Quinion (created 1 March 2003, last updated 19 November 2011), “Willy-nilly”, in World Wide Words.