Tag Archives: dally



This week’s word is dalliance (pronunciation here) which is generally used now to describe a light flirtation or romantic relationship, but it didn’t always mean that.

Mucky & Chicken’s friendship was more than a dalliance

First we need to take a look at the verb dally. Yeah, I didn’t realise it was a verb either. To dally is to play, dawdle, or waste time. My mother used to warn me not to dilly-dally on the walk home from school. I’m pretty sure she talked about shilly-shallying too, but perhaps I’ll look at that another day.

Dalliance is formed from dally + -ance so literally it means the act of playing or wasting time. There’s a good chance it came to English (mid 1300s) from French, as did so many words brought over with the Anglo-French connections of the time, but nobody is really sure.

What is certain is that daliance and daliaunce were used from that time in English to describe an edifying or spiritual conversation. That’s not how I would describe flirtation!

By the late 1300s dalliance had transformed in any general conversation including small talk, flirtation, or coquetry.

By the 1540s the word was being applied to idle or frivolous activity, so I can only imagine that the light romantic talk had progressing to light romantic actions by that time.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and dallying with wordfooling,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)