willy-nilly = planlos, wahllos, willkürlich, zufällig, unordentlich —— willy-nilly = wohl oder übel, nolens volens, einfach so —— This is going to happen willy-nilly = Das wird so oder so passieren (ob wir wollen oder nicht)



“And data sent around WILLY-NILLY today, on an assumption of impregnability, need not be strategically relevant to hackers for them to pose an embarrassment or risk to the businesses or officials who were doing the sending.”

The Economist - Science & technology, Cryptography and quantum computers (13 July 2022)

Did you

adverb (informal)

- suddenly and without planning or order
- If something happens willy-nilly, it happens even if the people who are involved do not want it to happen

- in a haphazard or spontaneous manner
- by compulsion: without choice

The Cambridge Dictionary / Merriam-Webster


The original definition of willy-nilly referred to having to do something whether one wanted it or not. It was formed as a contraction of “will ye, nill ye”. There were many different spellings such as “wille we, nelle we”, “will he, nill he”, “will I, nill I”.

Shakespeare used a form of it in 'The Taming of the Shrew':

Petruchio to Katharina:

Thus in plain terms: your father hath consented
That you shall be my wife; your dowry ‘greed on;
And, Will you, nill you, I will marry you.

What Petruchio wanted to say was “I will marry you whether you like it or not.”

This sense has given way to the modern and more common usage of “without any order.”


- without direction or planning:

accidentally, aimlessly, all over the lot, all over the map, all over the place, all over the shop, anyhow, any old how, anyway, any which way, anywise, arbitrarily, at every turn, at random, blindly, by chance, capriciously, eccentrically, erratically, everyway, every which way, everywhither, haphazard, haphazardly, heedlessly, helter-skelter, higgledy-piggledy, hit-or-miss, in a jumble, in all directions, in all manner of ways, in disarray, indiscriminately, in disorder, pell-mell, purposelessly, randomly, topsy-turvy, WILLY-NILLY, without method, without order, without planning

SMUGGLE OWAD into an English conversation, say something like:

“Did you ever search WILLY-NILLY for lost keys, then realized that they were in your pocket?”

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Paul Smith, IBAN: DE75 7316 0000 0002 5477 40

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