verb (used with object), nagged, nag·ging.

to annoy by persistent faultfinding, complaints, or demands.
to keep in a state of troubled awareness or anxiety, as a recurrent pain or problem: She had certain misgivings that nagged her.

verb (used without object), nagged, nag·ging.

to find fault or complain in an irritating, wearisome, or relentless manner (often followed by at): If they start nagging at each other, I'm going home.
to cause pain, discomfort, distress, depression, etc. (often followed by at): This headache has been nagging at me all day.


Also nagger. a person who nags, especially habitually.
an act or instance of nagging.

Origin of nag

1815–25; < Old Norse nagga to rub, grumble, quarrel; akin to Middle Low German naggen to irritate. See gnaw
Related formsun·nagged, adjective

Synonyms for nag




an old, inferior, or worthless horse.
Slang. any horse, especially a racehorse.
a small riding horse or pony.

Origin of nag

1350–1400; late Middle English nagge; connected with Dutch neg(ge) small horse, itself attested late and of obscure origin; said to be akin to neigh Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for nag

Historical Examples of nag

  • Just the nag I want, Mr. Whittlesey; only I've no ready cash to pay for him.

  • If I tell you what I want to, will you promise not to pitch into me, and not to nag and poke fun?

    Cap'n Eri

    Joseph Crosby Lincoln

  • I says, 'anything from plowing to threshing and nicking a nag's tail,' I says.

    A Son of Hagar

    Sir Hall Caine

  • The poor ruffler was fallen into meditation, and noted not that his nag did no more than amble.

    The Tavern Knight

    Rafael Sabatini

  • I heard that you were last seen eloping with Tim and my nag Bill.

    Mixed Faces

    Roy Norton

British Dictionary definitions for nag



verb nags, nagging or nagged

to scold or annoy constantly
(when intr, often foll by at) to be a constant source of discomfort or worry (to)toothache nagged him all day


a person, esp a woman, who nags
Derived Formsnagger, nounnaggingly, adverb

Word Origin for nag

C19: of Scandinavian origin; compare Swedish nagga to gnaw, irritate, German nagen




often derogatory a horse
a small riding horse

Word Origin for nag

C14: of Germanic origin; related to neigh
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 nag

"annoy by scolding," 1828, originally a dialectal word meaning "to gnaw" (1825), probably ultimately from a Scandinavian source (cf. Old Norse gnaga "to complain," literally "to bite, gnaw," dialectal Swedish and Norwegian nagga "to gnaw"), from Proto-Germanic *gnagan, related to Old English gnagan "to gnaw" (see gnaw). Related: Nagged; nagger; nagging.


"old horse," c.1400, nagge "small riding horse," of unknown origin, perhaps related to Dutch negge, neg (but these are more recent than the English word), perhaps related in either case to imitative neigh. Term of abuse is a transferred sense, first recorded 1590s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper