To wag is to move part of the body side to side. Dogs do it when they are happy; human beings do it when they are unhappy.

The most common use for this word is when describing the movement of a dog’s tail:


  • My dog wagged her tail when she saw me arrive.
  • Dogs wag their tails when they are happy or excited.
  • Look, he’s wagging his tail.
  • Cows and horses use their tails to swat flies, but they don’t wag their tails when they see their owners.
  • A cat never wags its tail.

You can also use the word "wag" when a person shakes his or her finger at another person to express unhappiness with bad behavior.

  • The teacher wagged her finger at the student who was half an hour late to school.
  • Sheila wagged her finger at her four-year-old for making too much noise in the store.
  • A driver wagged his finger at another driver for cutting him off in traffic.
  • Don’t wag your finger at me! I did nothing wrong.

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This page was first published on September 23, 2013. It was updated on April 30, 2016.