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  1. the act of falling or staying behind.
  1. lingering; loitering; slow and dragging: lagging steps.

Origin of lagging1

1590–1600; lag1 + -ing1, -ing2
Related formslag·ging·ly, adverb


  1. the act of covering a boiler, oil tank, etc., with heat-insulating material.
  2. the covering formed.
  3. the material used.
  4. a number of boards or the like joined together side by side to line an excavation.
  5. Masonry. a number of lags, taken as a whole.

Origin of lagging2

First recorded in 1850–55; lag3 + -ing1


verb (used without object), lagged, lag·ging.
  1. to fail to maintain a desired pace or to keep up; fall or stay behind: After five minutes of hard running, some of them began to lag.
  2. to move or develop slowly, as toward a goal or objective, or in relation to an associated factor (often followed by behind): to lag behind in production.
  3. to delay or fail in reaching full development: The factory lags regularly in making its quota.
  4. to hang back; linger; delay: The old friends lagged because they wanted to talk some more.
  5. to decrease, wane, or flag gradually, as in intensity: Interest lagged as the meeting went on.
  6. Marbles. to throw one's shooting marble toward a line (lag line) on the ground in order to decide on the order of play.
  7. Billiards, Pool. string(def 17b).
verb (used with object), lagged, lag·ging.
  1. to fail to keep up with: The industry still lags the national economy.
  2. Obsolete. to cause to lag.
  1. a lagging or falling behind; retardation.
  2. a person who lags behind, is the last to arrive, etc.
  3. an interval or lapse of time: There was a developmental lag in the diffusion of ideas.
  4. Mechanics. the amount of retardation of some motion.
  5. Electricity. the retardation of one alternating quantity, as current, with respect to another related alternating quantity, as voltage, often expressed in degrees.
  6. Marbles, Billiards. the act of lagging.

Origin of lag1

1505–15; < Scandinavian: compare Norwegian lagga to go slowly


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1. loiter, linger. 10. slowing, slowdown.


1. hasten.


[lag]Chiefly British Slang.
verb (used with object), lagged, lag·ging.
  1. to send to penal servitude; imprison.
  1. a convict or ex-convict.
  2. a period or term of penal servitude; prison sentence.

Origin of lag2

First recorded in 1565–75; origin uncertain


  1. one of the staves or strips that form the periphery of a wooden drum, the casing of a steam cylinder, or the like.
  2. Masonry. a crosspiece between ribs in a centering.
verb (used with object), lagged, lag·ging.
  1. to line or cover (an excavation) with lagging.
  2. to cover with insulation, as a steam boiler, to prevent radiation of heat.

Origin of lag3

1665–75; < Scandinavian; compare Swedish lagg stave
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for lagging

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • The lagging crowd of listeners paused, breathless, to lose no word.

    Meadow Grass

    Alice Brown

  • Then he passed on round to the front of the building with the lagging step of indifference.

    The Law-Breakers

    Ridgwell Cullum

  • So I worked on and on, with spurts of fury and periods of lagging.

  • I could scarcely force my lagging steps, one by one, to carry me.


    Cleveland Moffett

  • The sea was rolling heavily, and a good many of our ships were lagging.


    Talbot Baines Reed

British Dictionary definitions for lagging


  1. insulating material wrapped around pipes, boilers, etc, or laid in a roof loft, to prevent loss of heat
  2. the act or process of applying lagging
  3. a wooden frame used to support an arch during construction


verb lags, lagging or lagged (intr)
  1. (often foll by behind) to hang (back) or fall (behind) in movement, progress, development, etc
  2. to fall away in strength or intensity
  3. to determine an order of play in certain games, as by rolling marbles towards a line or, in billiards, hitting cue balls up the table against the top cushion in an attempt to bring them back close to the headrail
  1. the act or state of slowing down or falling behind
  2. the interval of time between two events, esp between an action and its effect
  3. an act of lagging in a game, such as billiards

Word Origin

C16: of obscure origin


  1. a convict or ex-convict (esp in the phrase old lag)
  2. a term of imprisonment
verb lags, lagging or lagged
  1. (tr) to arrest or put in prison

Word Origin

C19: of unknown origin


verb lags, lagging or lagged
  1. (tr) to cover (a pipe, cylinder, etc) with lagging to prevent loss of heat
  1. the insulating casing of a steam cylinder, boiler, etc; lagging
  2. a stave or lath

Word Origin

C17: of Scandinavian origin; related to Swedish lagg stave
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

Word Origin and History for lagging



"fail to keep pace," 1520s, earlier as a noun meaning "last person" (1510s), later also as an adjective (1550s; e.g. lag-mon "last man"), all of uncertain relationship, possibly from a Scandinavian source (cf. Norwegian lagga "go slowly"), or some dialectal version of last, lack, or delay. Related: Lag; lagging. The noun meaning "retardation" is from 1855. First record of lag time is from 1951.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

lagging in Medicine


  1. Retarded or diminished movement of the affected side of the chest in pulmonary tuberculosis.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.