hag

1
[ hag ]
/ hæg /

noun

an ugly old woman, especially a vicious or malicious one.
a witch or sorceress.

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Origin of hag

1
1175–1225; Middle English hagge,Old English *hægge, akin to hægtesse witch, hagorūn spell, German Hexe witch

OTHER WORDS FROM hag

haggish, haglike, adjective

Definition for hag (2 of 3)

hag2
[ hag, hahg ]
/ hæg, hɑg /

noun British Dialect.

bog; quagmire.
a firm spot or island of firm ground in a bog or marsh.

Origin of hag

2
1250–1300; Middle English: chasm <Old Norse hǫgg a cut, ravine

Definition for hag (3 of 3)

Hag.

abbreviation Bible.

Haggai.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

ABOUT THIS WORD

What does hag mean?

Historically, a hag is an old, ugly woman with evil powers. Much like witches, crones, and banshees, hag has become a sexist insult degrading women.

Content warning: this article contains references to sexist and homophobic language.

Where does hag come from?

Hags as evil, old women are an ancient archetype, appearing in myth and literature from the Slavic myth of Baba Yaga to the Greek Furies. They are often described as witch-like figures who live in wild places like swamps and forests.

The word hag is recorded in the 13th century and comes from a Germanic root. By the 1300s, hag was already being used to dismiss women considered ugly, repulsive, and vicious.

In the 1960s, fag hag emerged. Fag hags are straight women who socialize with gay men. While some women and gay people embrace the term (such as comedian Margaret Cho), fag hag is considered doubly offensive, featuring a homophobic slur and sexist insult.

Women in powerful positions, such as U.S. Democratic politicians Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton, are often denigrated as hags.

How is hag used in real life?

Hags still make appearances in our modern mythologies. The Gullah people of the coastal Carolinas, for instance, tell stories of the boohag, who sheds her skin at night to sneak into houses and feast on sleepers’ energy.

Hags also show up in the Harry Potter universe, figured as semi-magical, non-human beings that muggles mistake for witches. Hollywood loves hags, too, with cinematic hags appearing in Drag Me To Hell (2009), Hag (2014,) and The Hag (2018.)

Unfortunately, hag is also still used as a sexist insult. Hillary Clinton was derided as an old hag during her 2016 presidential run by supporters of Donald Trump. In 2017, Republican politician Roger Stanton caused outrage when he called the Women’s March a “hag and ho’ show” on social media.

Unless you’re discussing myth, magic, or Macbeth, avoid calling a woman a hag. It implies women are only valuable if they are young, beautiful, and submissive.

Note

This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.

British Dictionary definitions for hag (1 of 3)

hag1
/ (hæɡ) /

noun

an unpleasant or ugly old woman
a witch
short for hagfish
obsolete a female demon

Derived forms of hag

haggish, adjectivehaggishly, adverbhaggishness, nounhaglike, adjective

Word Origin for hag

Old English hægtesse witch; related to Old High German hagazussa, Middle Dutch haghetisse

British Dictionary definitions for hag (2 of 3)

hag2
/ (hæɡ, hɑːɡ) /

noun Scot and Northern English dialect

a firm spot in a bog
a soft place in a moor

Word Origin for hag

C13: of Scandinavian origin; compare Old Norse högg gap; see hew

British Dictionary definitions for hag (3 of 3)

Hag.
/ Bible /

abbreviation for

Haggai
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