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[hag] /hæg/
an ugly old woman, especially a vicious or malicious one.
a witch or sorceress.
a hagfish.
Origin of hag1
1175-1225; Middle English hagge, Old English *hægge, akin to hægtesse witch, hagorūn spell, German Hexe witch
Related forms
haggish, haglike, adjective
1. harpy, harridan, virago, shrew.


[hag, hahg] /hæg, hɑg/
noun, British Dialect.
bog; quagmire.
a firm spot or island of firm ground in a bog or marsh.
1250-1300; Middle English: chasm < Old Norse hǫgg a cut, ravine


1. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for hag
Historical Examples
  • The old man's description of her as a hag had not been far wrong.

    The Martian Cabal Roman Frederick Starzl
  • A nymph with bright and flowing hair; a hag like Hecuba, by Jove!

  • "'T is out," said the hag; and as she spoke, the wick fell into the saucer, and all was dark.

    Confessions Of Con Cregan Charles James Lever
  • The hag laughed again, although she was not looking at them.

  • The hag was muttering her incantations and did not heed the girl.

    Tess of the Storm Country

    Grace Miller White
  • A mystery shrouded the way in which she fell into the hands of hag Zogbaum.

    An Outcast F. Colburn Adams
  • But if he did, he always kept it a secret between himself and hag Zogbaum.

    An Outcast F. Colburn Adams
  • hag Zogbaum said he was always meddling with other people's business.

    An Outcast F. Colburn Adams
  • "Destiny placed them as they are, young men," said the hag, solemnly.

    Eventide Effie Afton
  • "Because she will love another," repeated the hag in a low, but firm, decided tone.

    Eventide Effie Afton
British Dictionary definitions for hag


an unpleasant or ugly old woman
a witch
short for hagfish
(obsolete) a female demon
Derived Forms
haggish, adjective
haggishly, adverb
haggishness, noun
haglike, adjective
Word Origin
Old English hægtesse witch; related to Old High German hagazussa, Middle Dutch haghetisse


/hæɡ; hɑːɡ/
noun (Scot & Northern English, dialect)
a firm spot in a bog
a soft place in a moor
Word Origin
C13: of Scandinavian origin; compare Old Norse högg gap; see hew


Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for hag

early 13c., "ugly old woman," probably a shortening of Old English hægtesse "witch, fury" (on assumption that -tesse was a suffix), from Proto-Germanic *hagatusjon-, of unknown origin. Similar shortening produced Dutch heks, German Hexe "witch" from cognate Middle Dutch haghetisse, Old High German hagzusa.

First element is probably cognate with Old English haga "enclosure, portion of woodland marked off for cutting" (see hedge). Old Norse had tunriða and Old High German zunritha, both literally "hedge-rider," used of witches and ghosts. Second element may be connected with Norwegian tysja "fairy; crippled woman," Gaulish dusius "demon," Lithuanian dvasia "spirit," from PIE *dhewes- "to fly about, smoke, be scattered, vanish."

One of the magic words for which there is no male form, suggesting its original meaning was close to "diviner, soothsayer," which were always female in northern European paganism, and hægtesse seem at one time to have meant "woman of prophetic and oracular powers" (Ælfric uses it to render the Greek "pythoness," the voice of the Delphic oracle), a figure greatly feared and respected. Later, the word was used of village wise women.

Haga is also the haw- in hawthorn, which is an important tree in northern European pagan religion. There may be several layers of folk etymology here. Confusion or blending with heathenish is suggested by Middle English hæhtis, hægtis "hag, witch, fury, etc.," and haetnesse "goddess," used of Minerva and Diana.

If the hægtesse was once a powerful supernatural woman (in Norse it is an alternative word for Norn, any of the three weird sisters, the equivalent of the Fates), it might originally have carried the hawthorn sense. Later, when the pagan magic was reduced to local scatterings, it might have had the sense of "hedge-rider," or "she who straddles the hedge," because the hedge was the boundary between the "civilized" world of the village and the wild world beyond. The hægtesse would have a foot in each reality. Even later, when it meant the local healer and root collector, living in the open and moving from village to village, it may have had the mildly pejorative sense of hedge- in Middle English (hedge-priest, etc.), suggesting an itinerant sleeping under bushes, perhaps. The same word could have contained all three senses before being reduced to its modern one.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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