- To be undecided.
- To hesitate.
- He is not shilly-shally about his plans to move to the United States of America.
- I knew that he was the one for me. I would have never married him if I were shilly-shally about that.
- It is not easy to undo such a decision so you better not take it if you are shilly-shally.
- I am shilly-shally about wanting to buy a new car. Perhaps I should just wait another while before considering it seriously.
As it is often seen with phrases of two words that rhyme or can be said in a tone, one word has a base while the other one adds to the effect of the idiom. In this case the first word that is shilly comes from “shall I?” When asked a lot of time repeatedly, it becomes ‘shilly’. The first literary use comes from the 1700’s where it was used as “Shill I, shall I” in ‘The way of the world’ by William Congreve. Sir Richard Steele used it in ‘The tender husband, or the accomplish’d fools’ in the exact form that the phrase is seen today. This was in the year 1703.