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Scared the Willies

Posted by Bruce Kahl on May 31, 2000

In Reply to: Scared the Willies posted by Daniel Cohen on May 30, 2000

This is another one of those phrases that has no definitive origin.

The Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins, traces "the willies" to the slang expression "willie-boy," meaning "sissy" -- presumably the sort who would be prone to the "willies."

There is a Serbo-Croatian word "vila" (in English, "wili" or "willi") meaning a wood-nymph or fairy, usually the spirit of a betrothed girl who died after being jilted by her lover. It seems entirely possible to me that "willi," the spirit or ghost, became the "willies," the feeling that something creepy is going on.
Personally, I vote for "willi"!!!