Willy-nilly

Willy-nilly is an adverb that means without care or planning. Synonyms of willy-nilly include haphazardly, random, carelessly.

It can also mean something is done with or without a person’s approval. This definition is somewhat out-dated and related to the phrases original meaning. In the past willy-nilly meant willingly or unwillingly; or without consideration for those involved.

Today nil means zero or nothing, but archaically, nill meant the opposite of will. In the sense that a person was unwilling or a person refused something. The old phrase will you nill you is most famously used by William Shakespeare in The Taming of the Shrew.

Examples

What happens at, say an auction, when a guy arrives pushing a wheelbarrow of money, handing it out willy-nilly? [Yakima Herald]

It is because the DPSUs have stayed stuck at the screwdriver technology level that the department of defence production in MoD has evolved a procurement system willy-nilly funnelling billions of dollars to foreign vendors with minimal transfer of technology (ToT). [New Indian Express]

I don’t do this willy-nilly; usually I have a reason. [Oregon Live]

So, there was no escaping the Clean India campaign. Willy-nilly, I picked up the broom and started from my own bedroom. [Hindustan Times]

But willy-nilly, Modi has accepted the lack of leadership at the state level in the BJP. [Free Press Journal]

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. [Shakespeare]