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  1. rough, matted hair, wool, or the like.
  2. a mass of this.
  3. a hairdo in which hair is cut in slightly uneven, overlapping layers downward from the crown, sometimes with the hair at the front and back hairlines left longer or wispier than the rest.
  4. a cloth with a nap, as of silk or a heavy or rough woolen fabric.
  5. a rug or carpet with a thick, shaggy pile.
  6. a coarse tobacco cut into fine shreds.
verb (used with or without object), shagged, shag·ging.
  1. to make or become rough or shaggy.

Origin of shag1

before 1050; Old English sceacga (wooly) hair (not recorded in ME); cognate with Old Norse skegg beard; akin to shaw
Related formsshag·like, adjective


  1. a small cormorant, Phalacrocorax aristotelis, of European coasts.
  2. any of several small cormorants of the Southern Hemisphere.

Origin of shag2

1560–70; perhaps special use of shag1, applied first to bird's crest


verb (used without object), shagged, shag·ging.
  1. to dance a step with a vigorous hopping on each foot.
  1. this dance step.

Origin of shag3

First recorded in 1350–1400; perhaps variant of shog


verb (used with object), shagged, shag·ging.
  1. to chase or follow after; pursue.
  2. to go after and bring back; fetch.
  3. Baseball. to retrieve and throw back (fly balls) in batting practice.
  1. shag ass, Slang: Vulgar. to depart, especially hurriedly; get going.

Origin of shag4

1930–35; origin uncertain; see shack2
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for shag

Historical Examples

  • They love Carlo and Shag, and are never afraid when they are with them.

    Bird Stories and Dog Stories


  • They ordered horses an' a outfit, and Shag Bunce is goin' with 'em.

    The Man of the Desert

    Grace Livingston Hill

  • No pony of his outfit, be he ever so fleet, could get far ahead of Shag Bunce.

    The Man of the Desert

    Grace Livingston Hill

  • She looked up with such kind beautiful eyes when Shag and I passed.


    Janet Milne Rae

  • She is the keeper's daughter, you know, and often goes out with Shag and me.


    Janet Milne Rae

British Dictionary definitions for shag


  1. a matted tangle, esp of hair, wool, etc
  2. a napped fabric, usually a rough wool
  3. shredded coarse tobacco
verb shags, shagging or shagged
  1. (tr) to make shaggy

Word Origin

Old English sceacga; related to sceaga shaw 1, Old Norse skegg beard, skagi tip, skōgr forest


  1. a cormorant, esp the green cormorant (Phalacrocorax aristotelis)
  2. like a shag on a rock Australian slang abandoned and alone

Word Origin

C16: special use of shag 1, with reference to its crest


verb shags, shagging or shagged
  1. to have sexual intercourse with (a person)
  2. (tr often foll by out; usually passive) to exhaust; tire
  1. an act of sexual intercourse

Word Origin

C20: of unknown origin


Though still likely to cause offence to many older or more conservative people, this word has lost a lot of its shock value of late. It seems to have a jocular, relaxed connotation, which most of the other words in this field do not. No doubt its acceptability has been accelerated by its use in the title of an Austin Powers film. Interestingly, though advertisements for the film caused a large number of complaints to the British Advertising Standards Authority, they were not upheld
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 shag


1590s, "cloth having a velvet nap on one side," perhaps from Old English sceacga "rough matted hair or wool," from Proto-Germanic *skagjan (cf. Old Norse skegg, Swedish skägg "beard"), perhaps related to Old High German scahho "promontory," Old Norse skagi "a cape, headland," with a connecting sense of "jutting out, projecting." But the word appears to be missing in Middle English. Of tobacco, "cut in fine shreds," it is recorded from 1789; of carpets, rugs, etc., from 1946.


"copulate with," 1788, probably from obsolete verb shag (late 14c.) "to shake, waggle," which probably is connected to shake.

And þe boot, amydde þe water, was shaggid. [Wyclif]

Cf. shake it in U.S. blues slang from 1920s, ostensibly with reference to dancing. But cf. also shag (v.), used from 1610s in a sense "to roughen or make shaggy." Also the name of a dance popular in U.S. 1930s and '40s. Related: Shagged; shagging.


in baseball, "to go after and catch" (fly balls), by 1913, of uncertain origin. Century Dictionary has it as a secondary sense of a shag (v.) "to rove about as a stroller or beggar" (1851), which is perhaps from shack (n.) "disreputable fellow" (1680s), short for shake-rag, an old term for a beggar.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

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