Main definitions of wag in English

: wag1wag2

wag1

verb

  • 1(with reference to an animal's tail) move or cause to move rapidly to and fro.

    [no object] ‘his tail began to wag’
    [with object] ‘the dog went out, wagging its tail’
    • ‘Poppy's tail was wagging at a rate only expected at top international competition level, so I knew that whatever it was, it was an animal.’
    • ‘Her tail wagged rapidly as she licked Kourin's face.’
    • ‘Lucy was waiting by the door, tail wagging as always when we got home.’
    • ‘I collect the morning paper and my two mutts greet me, their tails wagging back and forth in a frenzy.’
    • ‘Her tail began to wag as he approached, and he cautiously dropped onto one knee before reaching to untangle her leash.’
    • ‘And now Fizz is about to set tails wagging having been nominated for the Woman's Best Friend award in a canine competition.’
    • ‘Family dog greets me with tail wagging manically.’
    • ‘His tail began to wag as I scratched behind his ears.’
    • ‘Diane barks and wags her bushy tail in happiness as she jumps on Louis Crawford's lap in the van and she licks his face with love and a little slobber.’
    • ‘The climbers soon ski up to us, red plastic sleds wagging like tails behind them.’
    • ‘The Carmichaels walk down the path with three other dogs, their skeletal tails wagging furiously.’
    • ‘Kero got up, tongue hanging from the side of his mouth as he pranced over to her, his small tail wagging back and forth rapidly.’
    • ‘Apparently tails are wagging over the show, as it has been renewed for another season.’
    • ‘You can see quite clearly when the puppy is wagging its tail.’
    • ‘Rex bounded back the way he had come, tail wagging.’
    • ‘The puppy sniffed his hand cautiously and immediately his tail began to wag.’
    • ‘And in the meantime, Chuck is going bananas, his tail wagging like a crazed propeller, his face the most precious combination of anticipation and curiosity.’
    • ‘At the sight of us, they all begin to bark, tails wagging in instant happiness.’
    • ‘Then I come back, and the tails wag so hard that it begins with the middle of their dog bodies.’
    • ‘When my eyes meet hers, her tail starts to wag excitedly, but she dares not move her body in fear of spoiling the moment.’
    swing, sway, shake, move to and fro, swish, switch, quiver, twitch, flutter, waver, whip
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    1. 1.1[with object]Move (an upward-pointing finger) from side to side to signify a warning or reprimand.
      ‘she wagged a finger at Elinor’
      • ‘He was shown gesticulating toward the judge, and at times wagging his finger angrily.’
      • ‘The mother started screaming, and moving towards me, she was wagging her finger in my face and I thought she was going to hit me.’
      • ‘I left people with a little something to think about, without wagging my fingers or quoting Leviticus.’
      • ‘Instead wag a disapproving finger at the bull run in commodities.’
      • ‘Siya pretended to be disappointed and wagged her finger at Mel.’
      • ‘People within banks have access to lots of information, and those who wagged the finger at Mr Soden last year should hope they don't make enemies within their bank.’
      • ‘"Not just once," said Palios, wagging a finger at Barry.’
      • ‘He wagged his finger at her in mock disapproval.’
      • ‘‘That's not how you behave on the dancefloor,’ she says, wagging her finger.’
      • ‘I can't recall ever seeing so many people wagging a figurative finger at Tom as they have in response to his call for the resignation of Harvard president Larry Summers.’
      • ‘Angry and wagging his finger at presenter Jon Snow, Mr Campbell tears into a ‘fundamental attack upon the integrity of the government’.’
      • ‘‘Suit yourself,’ Howie said, wagging a finger in admonishment as he moved away.’
      • ‘The others looked at him, and he raised one hand to wag an index finger under Kaeritha's nose.’
      • ‘He even went to Wall Street to wag his finger at corporate wrongdoers, calling for legislative reform.’
      • ‘I am wagging my finger in your direction Democrats and Republicans!’
      • ‘News outlets shake their heads and wag a disappointed finger when violence erupts in our streets yet the entertainment industry uses those same elements as a mainstay for its Friday night feature.’
      • ‘When I first told them a couple of years ago, I really expected my grandma to wag her finger at me.’
      • ‘Friedman wags an accusing finger at subsidised theatres such as the National.’
      • ‘In friendly jest, one of the waiters came up to her and wagged his finger gently, indicating that the establishment did not approve.’
      • ‘He made a flourished bow and then humorously wagged his finger in response to her question.’
    2. 1.2[no object](used of a tongue, jaw, or chin, as representing a person) talk, especially in order to gossip or spread rumors.
      ‘this is a small island, and tongues are beginning to wag’
      • ‘It was the presence of retired and pregnant singer Sinead O'Connor on stage with Damien Dempsey that got chins wagging.’
      • ‘I think I'll silence that wagging tongue of hers right now!’
      • ‘Today an update on the shirtless shopper incident that has got quite a few chins wagging and a lot of discussion about what is acceptable and what is not in the way of dress in public.’

noun

  • A single rapid movement from side to side.

    ‘a chirpy wag of the head’
    • ‘Nikko broke the silence with a small whine and a wag of his tail.’
    • ‘No matter how many Chechens may be slaughtered, we content ourselves with a polite wag of the finger, shrug our shoulders, then concede that massacre is an internal matter.’
    • ‘She looked up at him sadly, acknowledging his gesture with a half wag of her tail.’
    • ‘But the crowning glory is when the pointer turns around and gives an approving look and tail wag before he trots off to pick up another bird.’
    swing, sway, shake, swish, switch, quiver, twitch, flutter, waver, whip, oscillation, vibration, undulation
    waggle, wiggle, wobble, wave, shake, flourish, brandish
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Phrases

  • how the world wags

    • dated How affairs are going or being conducted.

      • ‘I want you to be curious about how the world wags its tail in different lands.’
      • ‘The second stage knows how the world wags but not why.’
      • ‘And because we know that this is how the world wags - that even the least networked of us is connected to everyone if he is connected to at least one other person.’
      • ‘If you want to know how the world wags, and who's wagging it, here's your answer.’
      • ‘I have a vivid recollection of having in an evil or unguarded moment promised to do that which my soul abhors - to write a letter informing you how the world wags here below.’
  • the tail wags the dog

    • The less important or subsidiary factor, person, or thing dominates a situation; the usual roles are reversed.

      ‘the financing system is becoming the tail that wags the dog’
      • ‘What are some of the most common ways in which the tail wags the dog in financial aid?’
      • ‘The goal of developing the economy has yielded to the states looking to simply alleviate their budget concerns; the tail wags the dog.’
      • ‘This tail wags the dog, dominates university life for students and staff.’
      • ‘When ‘the truth’ becomes irrelevant, and perception is all that matters, then the tail wags the dog, and (as you know) that ain't quite right.’
      • ‘But he says that the conclusion as to whether the tail wags the dog or the reverse may be less straightforward.’
      • ‘He must have gained a profound understanding of that old saw ‘when the tail wags the dog’ in his role as program manager for the project.’
      • ‘How frightening it is when the tail wags the dog.’
      • ‘Borges talks about not being able to tell whether the tail wags the dog or the dog wags the tail in his own writing of poetry and stories.’
      • ‘But, they persist, peddling garbage, contradicting themselves in public (as in the example I posted), asserting the illogical (e.g. that the tail wags the dog) without evidentiary support from real sources, etc.’
      • ‘Even asking whether The Superstar Effect or TLT will win in a fight is like asking whether the dog wags the tail or the tail wags the dog.’

Origin

Middle English (as a verb): from the Germanic base of Old English wagian to sway.

Pronunciation:

wag

/waɡ/

Main definitions of wag in English

: wag1wag2

wag2

noun

dated
  • A person who makes facetious jokes.

    • ‘At one point a wag from the crowd shouted ‘Is there a footballer in the house?’’
    • ‘Janey was sure that it was a joke by the wags in the Forensics labs - well reasonably sure.’
    • ‘One wag even implored referee Iain Heard to blow for full-time… at half-time.’
    • ‘The good thing about gallows humour is no matter how bad things get you can always find some wag ready to crack a joke.’
    • ‘Some wags joked that the ‘9 on Nine’ panel looked like some sort of reality television show.’
    humorist, comedian, comedienne, comic, funny man, funny woman, wit, jester
    View synonyms

Origin

Mid 16th century (denoting a young man or mischievous boy, also used as a term of endearment to an infant): probably from obsolete waghalter person likely to be hanged (see wag, halter).

Pronunciation:

wag

/waɡ/