Verb > Dally

Verb – Dally

We took the word “dally” into English from Old French around the year 1300, but we haven’t been able to trace it further back than that. Here in English, “dally” started out meaning “to chitchat,” then “to play around,” “to mess with,” and “to flirt with.”

But today, it most often means “to waste time and cause a delay, as if playing around instead of getting serious.”

Part of speech:

Verb, the intransitive kind: “He’s still dallying,” “She’s dallying with her friends.”

Other forms:

Dallied, dallying, dalliance(s).

how to use it:

When words like “linger” and “procrastinate” are too serious, pick “dally” to emphasize how silly, playful, or childish people are being as they fail to get busy with whatever they’re supposed to be busy with.

Talk about someone dallying, often in a certain place, for a certain length of time, with certain people or things, or over certain choices to be made.

By itself, “dally” suggests foolishness and silliness. We can emphasize those things even more with the ridiculous-sounding synonym “dilly-dally:” “Instead of getting my work done, I’m over here dilly-dallying on Reddit, scrolling through memes about cats.


“He dallied over the dishes, smoked a cigar while he drank his coffee, and it was after three o’clock when he left the place…”
— Herman Landon, The Gray Phantom’s Return, 1922

“He floated between cults and ideologies, dallying with occultism, Scientology and Jungian psychology.”
— Parul Sehgal, New York Times, 25 December 2018