Willy-nilly / adverb / wil·ly-nil·ly
The word willy-nilly is used in English as both an adverb and an adjective with slightly different meanings. As an adverb, willy-nilly describes actions that are completed without thought or planning. As an adjective willy-nilly describes personalities or behaviors that are spontaneous. The words haphazardly and randomly have the same meaning as willy-nilly; methodically and systematically are antonyms of willy-nilly.
In a Sentence
The defendant walked out of the courtroom willy-nilly, and the police immediately arrested him for contempt of court.
The judge and jury thought it was deplorable that he acted willy-nilly — now he's in trouble and facing serious jail time.
People who care about the consequences of their actions avoid behaving in willy-nilly ways that can get them into trouble.
Willy-nilly first appeared in English around 1608. It was derived from the English words "will I and nill I" which came together to form the new term we still use today. There is some controversy surrounding the origin of willy-nilly. Etymologists also suspect the word willy-nilly ties to the Dutch willekeurig, meaning "arbitrary."