continually faultfinding, complaining, or petulant: a nagging parent.
persistently recurring; unrelenting: a nagging backache.

Origin of nagging

First recorded in 1830–40; nag1 + -ing2
Related formsnag·ging·ness, nounun·nag·ging, adjectiveun·nag·ging·ly, adverb



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 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for nagging

Contemporary Examples of nagging

Historical Examples of nagging

  • In the second scene of this second act Adriana goes on nagging in almost the same way.

  • He did not think it was decent of them to be nagging at him like this.


    Joseph Conrad

  • He, himself, already felt the nagging effect of jangling nerves.

    Sand Doom

    William Fitzgerald Jenkins

  • Does it occur to you that Mr. Bordman is nagging himself to achieve the inconceivable?

    Sand Doom

    William Fitzgerald Jenkins

  • After every nagging letter—thank God they don't write often any more!

    The Straw

    Eugene O'Neill

British Dictionary definitions for nagging



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 nagging



"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