Wish-washy is a hyphenated compound word. A compound word is a word derived from two or more separate words used together to create another word. Compound words are new words that have a different meaning than the definitions of the original words. Compound words are usually composed of two nouns, or an adjective and a noun. New compound words usually consist of two or more separate words, and are called open compound words. Midway through their evolution, compound words may acquire hyphens between the two or more words. A hyphenated compound word is a compound that is composed of two or more words linked by hyphens. Hyphenated compound words are the most likely type of compound words to be composed of two adjectives or two verbs. Hyphenated compound words are often coined by writers, as J.K. Rowling did when she created the phrase He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named to describe Lord Voldemort. In general, hyphenated compound words are midway on the journey between being rendered as separate words to being rendered as one word. When a compound becomes a closed compound word, which consists of two or more words joined without any hyphen or space, it has usually been in use for a long time. The advent of the internet has sped up the process of becoming a closed compound word. Understanding words that are compound words will expand one’s basic English vocabulary. We will examine the meaning of the word wish-washy, its etymology, and some examples of its use in a sentence or two.

Wishy-washy means unclear, irresolute, insipid, vague, indecisive, lacking character or commitment. A person who is wish-washy is indecisive or cannot commit to a particular viewpoint or course of action. The expression wish-washy came into use in the 1600s as a reduplication of the term, washy, which means feeble or weak. The word washy fell out of use, but the compound word wish-washy survived and took on its current meaning in the mid-1800s. Related words are wishy-washily and wishy-washiness.


MEGHAN MARKLE and Prince Harry have been called out for what critics branded a “wishy-washy” response to the crisis in Afghanistan after the couple said the situation left them “speechless”. (Daily Express)

He told federal treasurer Josh Frydenberg on Tuesday the government was being ‘wishy-washy’, and said it was ‘stupid’ that the vaccine would remain optional. (The Australian)

A wishy-washy positioning is confusing to people—potential clients, partners, and employers. (Forbes)

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