The meaning of 'doolally' and 'doolally tap' originating from the Indian town of Deolali ('tap' being a reference to tapa, the Sanskrit word for fever) have been well documented on EL&U.

But a similar question on World Wide Words prompted the following :

Rather curiously, some American subscribers have mentioned that doolally is also known to them as a term for something whose name one couldn’t for the moment remember. It has the same pattern as other US words with the same meaning, like dohickey, doojigger and doodad.

Has doolally been imported or is it an independent local variation on one of these other words? I don’t know.

Does 'doolally' have an alternative meaning in AmE ?

[EDIT NOTE : No, this is not a duplicate. I have specifically asked about the AmE meaning as quoted in the link to World Wide Words.]

  • 1
    Possible duplicate of Origin of doolally [tap] Commented Dec 31, 2017 at 17:04
  • @FF: It really isn't. OP knows the Anglo-Indian meaning and origin, but is asking whether there is a separate American meaning. Commented Dec 31, 2017 at 17:08
  • 2
    "Doolally" is not a commonly known/used term in the US.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Dec 31, 2017 at 19:31

1 Answer 1


All slang meanings reported in the two following dictionaries are BrE usage, at least originally. The sense cited by The New Patridge Dictionary of “in a state of sensory confusion” comes close to the one cited by World Wide Words:

According to Green’s Dictionary of Slang doolally has also the following meanings:

doolally, adj. 1. mad, eccentric; thus used as n. a madman (see cite 1914). 2. very drunk. 3. malfunctioning, out of order.

doolally tap, n. 1. madness, eccentricity, orig. a form of madness that afflicted soldiers stationed in India, and spec. at Deolalie. 2. sunstroke.

The The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English lists among its slang meaning also:

In a state of sensory confusion, actually a compound of all other meanings: mad, drunk and broken.

But probably the term you are referring to is doololly:

...it is not known if the American version (circa 1929), which turned the word into a noun, meaning unnamed object (as in ‘dohickey), derived from the earlier British version or developed independently a la ‘dohickey,’ doojigger,’ ‘doodad,’ etc.


1)A generalized term applied to some object not named, because the name is not known or cannot be recalled, or because the speaker holds the object in contempt; ‘doohickey/dohickey,’ doojigger, ‘doodad,’ gadget.

2) Money (see 1969 quote).

(Dictionary of American Regional English, North Carolina Folk Law by Brown)


1952 DO-LOLLY. . . A generalized term applied to some object not named, because the name is not known or cannot be recalled, or because the speaker holds the object in contempt.”—‘North Carolina Folklore’ by Brown, Vol. 1, page 534>

1969 (Question U19a, . . Money in general: “He's certainly got the DOOLOLLY.")—'DARE,' Informant Georgia,1974, DOOLOLLY>

1976 “O.K. now, we write down health care for everybody, equality for the women and other ethnics, world peace and a strong defense establishment. . . . All right. I’m rolling pretty good . . . It’s time for the DOOLALLY, that little bit of nostalgia. about the candidate was poorer than anybody ever had been and how he remembers his Momma and his Daddy . . .”—‘Northwest Arkansas Times,’ 11 August, page 4>


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