Green’s Dictionary of Slang

willies n.

also willeys, williwalloos
[ety. unknown, ? link to fig. use of dial. willy-wambles, stomach-rumbling]

1. nerves, worries, tension; esp. in phr. give (someone) the willies, to unnerve, booze willies, delirium tremens.

[[UK]J. Mills Old Eng. Gentleman (1847) 87: ‘It gives me the willy-wabbles to see a hen pheasant bagged,’ replied the keeper. ‘The what?’ asked the squire. ‘The willy-wabbles,’ repeated the keeper, placing his brawny hand tenderly upon his abdominal region].
[US]DN I 427: willies: ‘To have the willies,’ to be nervous.
[NZ]Eve. Post (Wellington) 9 Mar. 2/7: [In New York] If he bores her very much, he gives her ‘the willies’, an experience which can also be communicated by a sudden shock.
[Aus]Sydney Sportsman (Surry Hills, NSW) 8 May 2/7: John L. Sullivan saysa he had a room in Sydney over Sarah Bernhardt, and that Sarah’s rehearsals gave him the willies.
[US]H. Green Actors’ Boarding House (1906) 360: He’s got it bad. The Willies, I guess.
[US]Eve. Star (Wash., DC) 11 Sept. 20/2: A film was showing a spiff with the booze willies.
[US]‘O. Henry’ ‘The Fifth Wheel’ in Strictly Business (1915) 62: But I nearly got the williwalloos.
[US]E. O’Neill The Web in Ten ‘Lost’ Plays (1995) 52: Yuh give me the willies standin’ there like a ghost.
[US]Dos Passos Manhattan Transfer 388: I wish you’d fix that shade, those lights give me the willies.
[US]Z. Grey Fighting Caravans (1992) 250: It sort of gave me the willeys to listen to you at night.
[UK](con. WW1) P. MacDonald Patrol 144: He thought: Mustn’t get the willies!
[US](con. 1920s) J.T. Farrell Judgement Day in Studs Lonigan (1936) 758: The fellow’s teeth gave him the willies, they looked so ugly.
[US]W.R. Burnett High Sierra in Four Novels (1984) 317: When I first talked to Louis I thought this joint would give me the willies.
[UK]C. Harris Three-Ha’Pence to the Angel 85: This place is enough to give you the willies!
[US]M. Spillane One Lonely Night 34: I started to get the willies.
[UK]C. Lee diary 15 Feb. in Eight Bells & Top Masts (2001) 194: It was the gun that gave me the willies .
[UK]R. Cook Crust on its Uppers 127: I had the worst fit of willies in the biz.
[US]F. Kohner Affairs of Gidget 82: Doesn’t it give you the willies?
[US]W. Diehl Sharky’s Machine 126: I got the willies.
[UK]P.D. James Innocent Blood (1981) 112: That kid gives me the willies [...] He’s a proper little Crippen.
[UK]P. Barker Liza’s England (1996) 171: She started getting the willies at the last moment.
Johnston-Jones Toilet Elephant [advert] The problem of him giving me the willies.
[US]Mad mag. Oct. 37: Hospitals give me the willies.

2. (US drugs) withdrawal symptoms from narcotic drugs.

[US]G. Milburn ‘The Dealer Gets It All’ in Hobo’s Hornbook 152: Then I sprung a rosy lay-out on my side-pen Alton Red, / And we blowed a toy o’ white slufe that knocked the willies dead.