Willy Nilly
The phrase "willy nilly" has two distinct meanings. The first, and most common, usage means randomly or haphazardly. Our first usage example demonstrates this meaning. The second, and older, meaning to the phrase "willy nilly" means something happening or that needs to happen whether one is willing or not. Our second usage example illustrates this meaning.

The origin of this term was a phrase combining the thoughts I am willing and I am unwilling and commonly written as 'will I, nill I' and alternatively as 'wille we, nelle we' or 'will he, nil he'. There is a Latin phrase 'nolens, volens' which means whether a person wants or likes something or not, but it is unclear if this factored into the origin of 'willy nilly'. This phrase, in it's various forms, dates back to at least the 16th century with Shakespeare using them in The Taming of the Shrew and Hamlet.

The random and haphard meaning of this phrase derives from the original meaning which provides the imagery of something going back and forth.

Use Example - Mary's room is a disaster, all her clothes are just tossed about willy-nilly.

"Unfortunately, peace talks failed and both countries got drawn willy-nilly into the war."

Source Tags : Latin  Shakespeare  Books     Concept Tags : Randomness