[ shag ]
/ ʃæg /
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See synonyms for: shag / shagged / shagging / shags on Thesaurus.com


verb (used with or without object), shagged, shag·ging.

to make or become rough or shaggy.



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On the farm, the feed for chicks is significantly different from the roosters’; ______ not even comparable.

Origin of shag

First recorded before 1050; Old English sceacga “(wooly) hair” (not recorded in Middle English ); cognate with Old Norse skegg “beard”; akin to shaw
shaglike, adjective

Definition for shag (2 of 5)

[ shag ]
/ ʃæg /


a small cormorant, Phalacrocorax aristotelis, of European coasts.
any of several small cormorants of the Southern Hemisphere.

Origin of shag

First recorded before 1560–70; perhaps special use of shag1, applied first to bird's crest

Definition for shag (3 of 5)

[ shag ]
/ ʃæg /

verb (used without object), shagged, shag·ging.

to dance a step with a vigorous hopping on each foot.


this dance step.

Origin of shag

First recorded in 1350–1400; perhaps variant of shog

Definition for shag (4 of 5)

[ shag ]
/ ʃæg /

verb (used with object), shagged, shag·ging.

to chase or follow after; pursue.
to go after and bring back; fetch.
Baseball. to retrieve and throw back (fly balls) in batting practice.

Origin of shag

First recorded in 1930–35; origin uncertain; see shack2

Definition for shag (5 of 5)

[ shag ]
/ ʃæg /
Chiefly British Slang: Vulgar.

verb (used with or without object)

to have sexual intercourse (with): He was caught shagging his friend’s sister.Sorry, but I don’t shag with just anyone.


an act or instance of sexual intercourse: It’s been a while since I’ve had a shag.
a sexual partner, or a person considered as a sexual object: I bet she’d be a good shag.

Origin of shag

First recorded in 1780–90; origin unknown
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021


What else does shag mean?

Shag means “to have sex” with someone in British slang.

Where does shag come from?

Shag is a much older slang term for “having sex” than you think. Evidence for the term dates back to the 1680s. It is probably related to the word shake. (Use your imagination for the connection.)

As a verb, shag means “to have sex” (e.g., I shagged her last night). By the 1780s, it evolved into a noun for the act of copulation itself (e.g., We had a shag in the barn).

Come the late 1960s, a sexually attractive person was described as a shag. This was often said of women, but also sometimes men (e.g., He was a good shag, but he’s not that bright).

Many people outside the UK learned shag thanks to the hit 1999 comedy film Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me starring Mike Myers. The title is a play on the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me (1977).

Shag—describing something rough or matted, as in carpet—has a different root than the sexual shag. It is a 16th-century word, possibly from an Old English term for “rough, matted hair or wool.”

How is shag used in real life?

Referring to “sex” as shagging is closely associated with British slang.

When used as a verb, shag is conjugated just like any other English verb. As noted, shag can also be a noun describing the act of copulation or referring to someone as a sexual object.

The tone of shag is dirty and definitely informal, though not quite vulgar.


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 shag (1 of 3)

/ (ʃæɡ) /


a matted tangle, esp of hair, wool, etc
a napped fabric, usually a rough wool
shredded coarse tobacco

verb shags, shagging or shagged

(tr) to make shaggy
Old English sceacga; related to sceaga shaw 1, Old Norse skegg beard, skagi tip, skōgr forest

British Dictionary definitions for shag (2 of 3)

/ (ʃæɡ) /


a cormorant, esp the green cormorant (Phalacrocorax aristotelis)
like a shag on a rock Australian slang abandoned and alone
C16: special use of shag 1, with reference to its crest

British Dictionary definitions for shag (3 of 3)

/ (ʃæɡ) British slang /

verb shags, shagging or shagged

to have sexual intercourse with (a person)
(tr often foll by out; usually passive) to exhaust; tire


an act of sexual intercourse
C20: of unknown origin
Though still likely to cause offence to many older or more conservative people, this word has lost a lot of its shock value of late. It seems to have a jocular, relaxed connotation, which most of the other words in this field do not. No doubt its acceptability has been accelerated by its use in the title of an Austin Powers film. Interestingly, though advertisements for the film caused a large number of complaints to the British Advertising Standards Authority, they were not upheld
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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