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[wag] /wæg/
verb (used with object), wagged, wagging.
to move from side to side, forward and backward, or up and down, especially rapidly and repeatedly:
a dog wagging its tail.
to move (the tongue), as in idle or indiscreet chatter.
to shake (a finger) at someone, as in reproach.
to move or nod (the head).
verb (used without object), wagged, wagging.
to be moved from side to side or one way and the other, especially rapidly and repeatedly, as the head or the tail.
to move constantly, especially in idle or indiscreet chatter:
Her behavior caused local tongues to wag.
to get along; travel; proceed:
Let the world wag how it will.
to totter or sway.
British Slang. to play truant; play hooky.
the act of wagging:
a friendly wag of the tail.
a person given to droll, roguish, or mischievous humor; wit.
Origin of wag
1175-1225; Middle English waggen < Old Norse vaga to sway, or vagga cradle
Related forms
wagger, noun
unwagged, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for wag
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Let them be what they might, the pendulum should wag, and have a fair chance of doing its best.

    Wilfrid Cumbermede George MacDonald
  • The hunger that possessed her made her wag her head as if senile.

    L'Assommoir Emile Zola
  • He had only a stump of a tail, but he will wag it—when next his master sees him!

    A Boy I Knew and Four Dogs Laurence Hutton
  • Say it to your dogs, however, and see if they do not wag their tails.

    Five Mice in a Mouse-trap Laura E. Richards
  • If he wag his tail, then will I sing; if he do not wag his tail, then—then will I not be silent.

British Dictionary definitions for wag


verb wags, wagging, wagged
to move or cause to move rapidly and repeatedly from side to side or up and down
to move (the tongue) or (of the tongue) to be moved rapidly in talking, esp in idle gossip
to move (the finger) or (of the finger) to be moved from side to side, in or as in admonition
(slang) to play truant (esp in the phrase wag it)
the act or an instance of wagging
Word Origin
C13: from Old English wagian to shake; compare Old Norse vagga cradle


a humorous or jocular person; wit
Derived Forms
waggery, noun
waggish, adjective
waggishly, adverb
waggishness, noun
Word Origin
C16: of uncertain origin


(informal) the wife or girlfriend of a famous sportsman
Word Origin
C21: a back formation from an acronym for w(ives) a(nd) g(irlfriends)


(West Africa) Gambia (international car registration)
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 wag

early 13c., "waver, vacillate, lack steadfastness," probably from a Scandinavian source (cf. Old Norse vagga "a cradle," Danish vugge "rock a cradle," Old Swedish wagga "fluctuate"), and in part from Old English wagian "move backwards and forwards;" all from Proto-Germanic *wagojanan (cf. Old High German weggen, Gothic wagjan "to wag"), probably from PIE root *wegh- "to move about" (see weigh). Meaning "to move back and forth or up and down" is from c.1300. Wagtail is attested from c.1500 as a kind of small bird (late 12c. as a surname); 18c. as "a harlot," but seems to be implied much earlier:

If therefore thou make not thy mistress a goldfinch, thou mayst chance to find her a wagtaile. [Lyly, "Midas," 1592]
Wag-at-the-wall (1825) was an old name for a hanging clock with pendulum and weights exposed.


"person fond of making jokes," 1550s, perhaps a shortening of waghalter "gallows bird," person destined to swing in a noose or halter, applied humorously to mischievous children, from wag (v.) + halter. Or possibly directly from wag (v.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for wag


Related Terms


The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with wag
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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