American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
- adv. Whether desired or not: After her boss fell sick, she willy-nilly found herself directing the project.
- adv. Without order or plan; haphazardly.
- adj. Being or occurring whether desired or not: willy-nilly cooperation.
- adj. Disordered; haphazard: willy-nilly zoning laws.
Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- Will he or will he not; will ye or will ye not; willing or unwilling. See nill, will
- Vacillating; shilly-shallying.
- Also nilly-willy.
- adv. Whether desired or not.
- adv. idiomatic Without regard for consequences or the will of those affected.
- adv. Seemingly at random, haphazardly
- adv. without having a choice
- adv. in a random manner
- Originally ‘will he, nill he’ or ‘will ye, nill ye’, meaning ‘be he willing, be he unwilling’; see will, nill. (Wiktionary)
- Alteration of will ye (or he), nill ye (or he), be you (or he) willing, be you (or he) unwilling. (American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
“Then they proceed to throw the name around willy-nilly, with Rudolph mixing in "prosecco.”
“When you go down this road and you start to just willy-nilly - as I believe President Carter has - throwing race out there, you diminish real instances of racism that needs to be addressed.”
“Constitutional head of all military in the US (and a civilian for a reason) ... should just let the military do whatever it wants willy-nilly.”
“He lay on the floor in a loose heap, rolling willy-nilly with every roll of the Elsinore.”
“So long as he walked four miles an hour, he pumped that blood, willy-nilly, to the surface; but now it ebbed away and sank down into the recesses of his body.”
“He abruptly ceased, for at that moment, to enforce his remark, he had placed his hand on Planchette, and at that moment his hand had been seized, as by a paroxysm, and sent dashing, willy-nilly, across the paper, writing as the hand of an angry person would write.”
“The central organizing principle of every single street in America is that people will not start pushing each other, willy-nilly, into traffic.”
“The missions and objectives were never clearly defined, and the self-parodying "search for WMD" in Iraq (lampooned by the president himself at a subsequent press dinner) was a willy-nilly adventure in comic relief -- to wit, Donald Rumsfeld's classic remark that "we know where they are: they're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south, and north somewhat.”
“It gives us a plausible look at time travel and its potential consequences without having characters popping around through time changing events willy-nilly with no consideration for logic or continuity.”
“When we arrest people who have hard drug problems, we need to rely much more on things like coerced abstinence from drugs and much less on willy-nilly throwing people into jail.”
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