Today I came across the expression "going doolally" which was aimed at an individual and I suspect it is uncomplimentary. From where did the expression originate and what does it mean?

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    Where did you come across it? What research did you do? (A simple Google search turns up several answers to this question.) Commented Dec 22, 2022 at 18:06
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    @MarcInManhattan - I realise Google is a useful source of information, but I prefer to go to Stack Exchange sites to find answers to questions. I have also observed a noticeable drop in activity on at least two Stack Exchange sites I frequent. I wonder why that is?
    – Lesley
    Commented Dec 23, 2022 at 9:18
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    @MarcInManhattan Just Googling, I couldn't find much, myself. Gio's answer is a good one, but I would not have found that myself, I have to confess. It is not helpful to censure people who have only had a little experience on EL&U. Perhaps a little kindness would not hurt too much, I suggest ? (Yes, we all know the 'rules'.)
    – Nigel J
    Commented Dec 23, 2022 at 10:05
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    @MarcInManhattan But since the OP has asked the question we now have the information in the EL&U archive . (Which is the purpose of the site - to provide an archive of research.)
    – Nigel J
    Commented Dec 23, 2022 at 20:48
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    @MarcInManhattan . . . . . and, with that, we are in agreement. (As are the up-voters of both the question and the answers.)
    – Nigel J
    Commented Dec 24, 2022 at 8:22

2 Answers 2


The expression is of military origin and it refers to a specific place in India:

doolally adj. (also doolaley, do-lally)

[the Deolalie milit. sanatorium in Bombay, to which mentally ill troops were sent. However, according to the veteran Frank Richards, writing in his memoir Old Soldier Sahib (1936), the illness came not before one arrived at Deolalie but during one’s stay there. Time-expired troops were sent to the sanatorium to await the next troop-ship home. It was during the long hot days of tedium that men, formerly first-class soldiers, might gradually go to pieces] (orig. milit.)

  1. mad, eccentric; thus used as noun a madman (see cite 1914) or madness (see cite 2019); occas as n. see cite 1994.
  • 1902 [UK] Sheffield Eve. Teleg. 27 Oct. 10/1: Prisoner said when he got a drop of beer he became ‘doolally’.

  • 1914 [UK] Burnley News 14 Nov. 2/4: He was what the soldiers called a ‘doolally’: immediately he got drunk he got mad.




From the town of Deolali, the location of an army base and sanatorium where soldiers leaving India in the late 19th century were sent before leaving for home. Those that became mentally deranged after contacting a fever, or Tap in Urdu, were said to have gone Doolally Tap.

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    That’s the first time I’ve seen ‘doolally tap’ used outside of the West Midlands.
    – Spagirl
    Commented Dec 24, 2022 at 13:45

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