- the act of wagging: a friendly wag ofthe tail.
- a person given to droll, roguish, or mischievous humor; wit.
early 13 c., probably from a Scand. source (cf. O.N. vagga "a cradle," Dan. vugge "rock a cradle," O.Swed. wagga "fluctuate"), and in part from O.E. wagian "move backwards and forwards;" all from P. Gmc. *wagojanan (cf. O.H.G. weggen, Goth. wagjan "to wag"), probably from PIE base *wegh- "to move about" (see weigh). Wagtail is attested from c.1500 as a kind of small bird; 18 c. 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," 1553, 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.).
"To house his workers Ford built a replica of a middle-class Michigan town, complete with a hospital, schools, stores, movie theaters, Methodist churches, and wooden bungalows on tree-lined streets... Wags immediately dubbed the project Fordlândia."
- Charles Mann, 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created