verb (used with object), wagged, wag·ging.

verb (used without object), wagged, wag·ging.


the act of wagging: a friendly wag of the tail.
a person given to droll, roguish, or mischievous humor; wit.

Origin of wag

1175–1225; Middle English waggen < Old Norse vaga to sway, or vagga cradle
Related formswag·ger, nounun·wagged, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for wag

Contemporary Examples of wag

Historical Examples of wag

  • Let them be what they might, the pendulum should wag, and have a fair chance of doing its best.

    Wilfrid Cumbermede

    George MacDonald

  • The hunger that possessed her made her wag her head as if senile.


    Emile Zola

  • He had only a stump of a tail, but he will wag it—when next his master sees him!

  • Say it to your dogs, however, and see if they do not wag their tails.

    Five Mice in a Mouse-trap

    Laura E. Richards

  • If he wag his tail, then will I sing; if he do not wag his tail, then—then will I not be silent.

British Dictionary definitions for wag



verb wags, wagging or wagged

to move or cause to move rapidly and repeatedly from side to side or up and down
to move (the tongue) or (of the tongue) to be moved rapidly in talking, esp in idle gossip
to move (the finger) or (of the finger) to be moved from side to side, in or as in admonition
slang to play truant (esp in the phrase wag it)


the act or an instance of wagging

Word Origin for wag

C13: from Old English wagian to shake; compare Old Norse vagga cradle




a humorous or jocular person; wit
Derived Formswaggery, nounwaggish, adjectivewaggishly, adverbwaggishness, noun

Word Origin for wag

C16: of uncertain origin



informal the wife or girlfriend of a famous sportsman

Word Origin for Wag

C21: a back formation from an acronym for w (ives) a (nd) g (irlfriends)


abbreviation for

(West Africa) Gambia (international car registration)
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 wag

early 13c., "waver, vacillate, lack steadfastness," probably from a Scandinavian source (cf. Old Norse vagga "a cradle," Danish vugge "rock a cradle," Old Swedish wagga "fluctuate"), and in part from Old English wagian "move backwards and forwards;" all from Proto-Germanic *wagojanan (cf. Old High German weggen, Gothic wagjan "to wag"), probably from PIE root *wegh- "to move about" (see weigh). Meaning "to move back and forth or up and down" is from c.1300. Wagtail is attested from c.1500 as a kind of small bird (late 12c. as a surname); 18c. as "a harlot," but seems to be implied much earlier:

If therefore thou make not thy mistress a goldfinch, thou mayst chance to find her a wagtaile. [Lyly, "Midas," 1592]

Wag-at-the-wall (1825) was an old name for a hanging clock with pendulum and weights exposed.


"person fond of making jokes," 1550s, perhaps a shortening of waghalter "gallows bird," person destined to swing in a noose or halter, applied humorously to mischievous children, from wag (v.) + halter. Or possibly directly from wag (v.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with wag


see tail wagging the dog; tongues wag.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.