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Definition gag


The verb is from 15th-century Middle English gaggen, Early Modern English gagge, possibly imitative or perhaps related to or influenced by Old Norse (Old Icelandic) gag-háls ("with head thrown backwards"; > Norwegian dialectal gaga (“bent backwards”)). The intransitive sense "to retch" is from 1707.

The noun is from the 16th century, figurative use (for "repression of speech") from the 1620s. The secondary meaning "(practical) joke" is from 1863, of unclear origin.


gag (plural gags)

  1. A device to restrain speech, such as a rag in the mouth secured with tape or a rubber ball threaded onto a cord or strap.
  2. (law) An order or rule forbidding discussion of a case or subject.
  3. A joke or other mischievous prank.
  4. A convulsion of the upper digestive tract.
  5. (archaic) A mouthful that makes one retch or choke.


gag (third-person singular simple present gags, present participle gagging, simple past and past participle gagged)

  1. (intransitive) To experience the vomiting reflex.
  2. (transitive) To cause to heave with nausea.
  3. (transitive) To restrain someone's speech by blocking his or her mouth.
  4. (transitive) To pry or hold open by means of a gag.
  5. (transitive, figuratively) To restrain someone's speech without using physical means.
  6. (transitive, intransitive) To choke; to retch.

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