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verb (used with object), gagged, gag·ging.
  1. to stop up the mouth of (a person) by putting something in it, thus preventing speech, shouts, etc.
  2. to restrain by force or authority from freedom of speech; silence.
  3. to fasten open the jaws of, as in surgical operations.
  4. to cause to retch or choke.
  5. Metalworking. to straighten or bend (a bar, rail, etc.) with a gag.
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verb (used without object), gagged, gag·ging.
  1. to retch or choke.
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  1. something put into a person's mouth to prevent speech, shouting, etc.
  2. any forced or arbitrary suppression of freedom of speech.
  3. a surgical instrument for holding the jaws open.
  4. Metalworking. a shaped block of steel used with a press to straighten or bend a bar, rail, etc.
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Origin of gag1

1400–50; late Middle English gaggen to suffocate; perhaps imitative of the sound made in choking


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  1. a joke, especially one introduced into a script or an actor's part.
  2. any contrived piece of wordplay or horseplay.
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verb (used without object), gagged, gag·ging.
  1. to tell jokes or make amusing remarks.
  2. to introduce gags in acting.
  3. to play on another's credulity, as by telling false stories.
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verb (used with object), gagged, gag·ging.
  1. to introduce usually comic interpolations into (a script, an actor's part, or the like) (usually followed by up).
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Origin of gag2

1770–80; perhaps special use of gag1; compare Old Norse gagg yelp


noun, plural (especially collectively) gag, (especially referring to two or more kinds or species) gags.
  1. a serranid game fish, Mycteroperca microlepsis, found along the southeastern coast of the U.S.
  2. any of several related fishes.
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Origin of gag3

An Americanism dating back to 1880–85; origin uncertain
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for gag

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • There's no excuse for your talking such stuff as that, and you're not going to do it, if I have to gag you!

    Good Indian

    B. M. Bower

  • "I don't know," the Viceroy said shortly, working the gag out of his mouth.

    Slaves of Mercury

    Nat Schachner

  • We bind and gag the Duke, and we convey him with all speed and quiet out of Bridgwater.

    Mistress Wilding

    Rafael Sabatini

  • The poison story had been a gag to make him think he had outwitted Domber.

  • The glittering fisherlady could not bind and gag the bait and drop her into his mouth.

    The Paliser case

    Edgar Saltus

British Dictionary definitions for gag


verb gags, gagging or gagged
  1. (tr) to stop up (a person's mouth), esp with a piece of cloth, etc, to prevent him or her from speaking or crying out
  2. (tr) to suppress or censor (free expression, information, etc)
  3. to retch or cause to retch
  4. (intr) to struggle for breath; choke
  5. (tr) to hold (the jaws) of (a person or animal) apart with a surgical gag
  6. (tr) to apply a gag-bit to (a horse)
  7. be gagging for or be gagging to slang to be very eager to have or do something
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  1. a piece of cloth, rope, etc, stuffed into or tied across the mouth
  2. any restraint on or suppression of information, free speech, etc
  3. a surgical device for keeping the jaws apart, as during a tonsillectomy
  4. parliamentary procedure another word for closure (def. 4)
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Word Origin

C15 gaggen; perhaps imitative of a gasping sound


  1. a joke or humorous story, esp one told by a professional comedian
  2. a hoax, practical joke, etche did it for a gag
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verb gags, gagging or gagged
  1. (intr) to tell jokes or funny stories, as comedians in nightclubs, etc
  2. (often foll by up) theatre
    1. to interpolate lines or business not in the actor's stage part, usually comic and improvised
    2. to perform a stage jest, either spoken or based on movement
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Word Origin

C19: perhaps special use of gag 1
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 gag


mid-15c., "to choke, strangle," possibly imitative or influenced by Old Norse gaghals "with head thrown back." The sense of "stop a person's mouth" is first attested c.1500. Related: Gagged; gagging.

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"joke," 1863, probably related to theatrical sense of "matter interpolated in a written piece by the actor" (1847); or from the sense "made-up story" (1805); or from slang verbal sense of "to deceive, take in with talk" (1777), all perhaps on notion of "stuff, fill" (see gag (v.)).

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"act of gagging," 1550s, from gag (v.); figurative use from 1620s.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

gag in Medicine


  1. To choke, retch, or undergo a regurgitative spasm.
  2. To prevent from talking.
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  1. An instrument adjusted between the teeth to keep the mouth from closing during operations in the mouth or throat.
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The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.