Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.
May 20th, 2016
Episode 530 of 765 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for May 20, 2016 is: dally \DAL-ee\ verb 1 a : to act playfully; especially : to play amorously b : to deal lightly : toy 2 a : to waste time b : linger, dawdle Examples: He dithered and dallied, avoiding his work for as long as possible. "Voters don't elect leaders to dally, stall, drag their feet and excel at the art of delay." —The Daily Chronicle (DeKalb, Illinois), 31 Dec. 2015 Did you know? English speakers have been playing with different uses of dally since the 14th century. They first started using the word with the meaning "to chat," which was also the meaning of the Anglo-French word from which it was derived, but that meaning fell into disuse by the end of the 15th century. Next, dalliers were amusing themselves by acting playfully with each other especially in amorous and flirtatious ways. Apparently, some dalliers were also a bit derisive, leading dally to mean "to deal with lightly or in a way that is not serious." It didn't take long for the fuddy-duddies to criticize all this play as a waste of time. By the mid-16th century, dally was weighted down with its "to waste time" and "dawdle" meanings, which, in time, gave way to the word dillydally, a humorous reduplication of dally.