Definition of willy-nilly in English:



  • 1Whether one likes it or not.

    ‘he would be forced to collaborate willy-nilly’
    • ‘For their part, the interns had no special passion for aquatic life. They had been recruited at the last minute by a government summer job program and assigned, willy-nilly, to the aquarium.’
    • ‘Caught up, willy-nilly, in lawlessness of a sort were also numberless worthy members of the public, who faced a stupefying barrage of emergency laws passed on sumptuary, economic and security grounds.’
    • ‘But willy-nilly one must, come hail or thunderstorm.’
    • ‘Now, 11 years later, he was the Chief Commissioner of the hill State of Manipur, and had willy-nilly to depute election officers and to supervise the polling and the counting.’
    whether one likes it or not, of necessity, necessarily
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  • 2Without direction or planning; haphazardly.

    ‘politicians expanded spending programs willy-nilly’
    • ‘The Minister himself has given up now on going through the review process; he is just making arbitrary closure decisions around the country, willy-nilly, whether they are good schools or bad schools.’
    • ‘Can these buffoons really wander willy-nilly around the congested airspace above Britain with no regard for the professional pilots who rely on every other pilot to be up-to-speed on what is happening in their area?’
    • ‘The perception is that they are pretty safe drugs and are handed out willy-nilly, with a lot of pressure from some patients.’
    • ‘It was a wait and see situation; the Government would not throw money around willy-nilly, so it just waited to see whether that organism could live in New Zealand.’
    • ‘We also couldn't go firing darts willy-nilly as they are very powerful.’
    • ‘In the popular press, Cohen notes, seaside towns were being destroyed by warring gangs, with property getting trashed willy-nilly and pitched battles being fought in the street.’
    • ‘If they're used willy-nilly, they will merely increase public anxiety.’
    • ‘I think people are starting to realise they can't go around willy-nilly and destroy this important part of history.’
    • ‘At the same time, Americans also said they will not be spending willy-nilly.’
    • ‘The idea of half-a-dozen or so people blowing this apart, and revealing a whole lot of these identities willy-nilly is scary.’
    • ‘If there's a suspicion they are just doing it for money and handing out tickets willy-nilly irrespective of the traffic implications, then it's not going to go down well with motorists.’
    • ‘There are some pieces of music that must be parceled out over a lifetime, and you don't want to spend their impact willy-nilly.’
    • ‘It was made perfectly clear that money will not be tipped onto a table for the town to spend willy-nilly on pet projects.’
    • ‘I can't wait for the day when my husband and I no longer have a mortgage and that prospect alone provides us with the motivation not to spend money willy-nilly on new cars and expensive holidays.’
    • ‘Large crowds gather and people just wander across the road willy-nilly.’
    • ‘Vendors can currently wave performance figures around willy-nilly without fear of contradiction, and it is pretty much certain that some federated query projects will fail because the selected solution fails.’
    • ‘Second question: how many of you spend money willy-nilly on cosmetics, jewelry, clothes, fast food, movies, and weekend beer?’
    • ‘Hopefully the commanders here in the field will pause to consider the dire consequences of backlash before rushing in willy-nilly to crush those ‘insurgents’.’
    • ‘‘Businesses are not free to spend their money willy-nilly,’ she said.’
    • ‘If you rummage around in the history of the popular song, you'll find innumerable instances of lyrics and musical passages appropriated and misappropriated willy-nilly.’
    haphazardly, at random, randomly, without planning, without method
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Early 17th century: later spelling of will I, nill I I am willing, I am unwilling.