from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A dance step of the 1930s consisting of a hop on each foot in turn.
  • intransitive verb To perform or execute this dance.
  • noun Any of several cormorants, especially Phalacrocorax aristotelis of Europe and North Africa.
  • transitive verb To chase and bring back; fetch.
  • transitive verb Baseball To chase and catch (fly balls) in practice.
  • noun A tangle or mass, especially of rough matted hair.
  • noun A coarse long nap, as on a woolen cloth.
  • noun Cloth having such a nap.
  • noun A rug with a thick rough pile.
  • noun Coarse shredded tobacco.
  • transitive verb To make shaggy; roughen.
  • intransitive verb To engage in sexual intercourse with.
  • intransitive verb To engage in sexual intercourse.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To roughen or make shaggy: used chiefly in the past participle.
  • To hang in or form shaggy clusters.
  • noun Rough matted hair, wool, or the like.
  • noun Hence The nap of cloth, especially when long and coarse.
  • noun Any cloth having a long nap.
  • noun A strong tobacco cut into fine shreds.
  • Rough and coarse; hairy; shaggy.
  • Made of the cloth called shag.
  • noun In ornithology, a cormorant; especially, the crested cormorant, or scart, Phalacrocorax graculus, of Europe, so called in Great Britain.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun Coarse hair or nap; rough, woolly hair.
  • noun A kind of cloth having a long, coarse nap.
  • noun (Com.) A kind of prepared tobacco cut fine.
  • noun (Zoöl.) Any species of cormorant.
  • adjective Hairy; shaggy.
  • transitive verb To make hairy or shaggy; hence, to make rough.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun Several species of sea birds in the family Phalacrocoracidae (cormorant family), especially the common shag or European shag, Phalacrocorax aristotelis, found on European and African coasts.
  • noun Matted material; rough massed hair, fibres etc.
  • noun Coarse shredded tobacco.
  • noun A type of rough carpet pile.
  • verb transitive To make hairy or shaggy; to roughen.
  • verb intransitive To shake, wiggle around.
  • verb transitive, vulgar slang To have sexual intercourse with.
  • verb India, transitive, vulgar slang To masturbate.
  • verb To chase after; especially : to chase after and return (a ball) hit usually out of play
  • noun A swing dance.
  • noun slang An act of sexual intercourse.
  • noun slang A casual sexual partner.
  • noun Canada, Northwestern Ontario A fundraising dance in honour of a couple engaged to be married.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun a lively dance step consisting of hopping on each foot in turn
  • verb dance the shag
  • noun slang for sexual intercourse
  • noun a strong coarse tobacco that has been shredded
  • noun a fabric with long coarse nap
  • noun a matted tangle of hair or fiber


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Origin unknown.]

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Perhaps from its shaggy crest.]

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Perhaps from obsolete shag, to shake.]

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English *shagge, from Old English sceacga, matted hair.]

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Perhaps from obsolete shag, to shake, wiggle.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Old English sceacga, akin to Old Norse skegg, beard (compare Danish skæg, spelling before the writing reform of 1948: skjæg, Norwegian skjegg, Swedish skägg), from Old Norse skaga, to protrude.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Origin unknown.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Blend of shower ("bridal shower") and stag ("bachelor party").


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  • A small crested cormorant of Europe and North Africa.

    February 14, 2007

  • "Austin Powers, the spy who gave me a small cormorant from a European coast" just doesn't have the same ring to it.

    February 15, 2007

  • No, no, I suppose you're right....It sounds more like a nature film that way. ;-)

    February 15, 2007

  • Then, of course, there is shag pile (as in carpet).

    July 21, 2007

  • In the 1970s or 80s it was a certain kind of haircut; one I never liked because it was too . . .shaggy. ;-)

    July 21, 2007

  • Eeeew! I remember that hairstyle! Yuck. And I remember shag pile. Thanks for the memories, guys. ;-)

    July 22, 2007

  • The shag is a form of swing dancing that evolved from the jitterbug and jump blues of the big band jazz era and originated along the strands between Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and Wilmington, North Carolina, during the 1940s. It is most often associated with beach music, a genre of rhythm and blues-based songs that lend themselves to this dance form. According to Bo Bryan, a noted shag historian and resident of Beaufort County, the term was coined at Carolina Beach, North Carolina. Today, the shag is a recognized dance in national and international dance competitions held across the United States.

    In the dance the upper body and hips hardly move as the legs do convoluted kicks and fancy footwork. The man is the center of attention and the woman's steps are either mirror steps of the man's or a sort of marking time while he does spins and other gyrations.

    The shag is the state dance of North Carolina and South Carolina, and is still popular amongst residents of both states.

    The 1989 film Shag starring Bridget Fonda, Phoebe Cates, Annabeth Gish, and Page Hannah as four high school friends on their last road trip together before graduation, was filmed in Myrtle Beach and features the Carolina shag.


    February 26, 2008

  • In the cormorant sense... see otaries for a usage note.

    February 29, 2008

  • The common cormorant (or shag)

    Lays eggs inside a paper bag,

    You follow the idea, no doubt?

    It's to keep the lightning out.

    But what these unobservant birds

    Have never thought of, is that herds

    Of wandering bears might come with buns

    And steal the bags to hold the crumbs.

    -- Christopher Isherwood

    July 25, 2008

  • Was the film as long ago as 1989? Tempus indeed fugits. I remember it was a crap film, but popular for lines such as "I just want to shag all night". This was before Austin Powers and before the word entered US vernacular.

    July 25, 2008

  • A shag is not a cormorant and vice versa

    See the 2-minute mark on the video.

    (also, if you are interested, the last 3 minutes or so of the preceding segment, i.e. part 3b, where they discuss the Isherwood poem as well)

    July 25, 2008

  • I remember the first beach trip I made when I was in graduate school in NC. I had been in the U.S. only about a month, and went with a group from the Newman Center. Everyone in the van on the way down kept talking about all the shagging they would be doing all weekend.

    I was quite discombobulated.

    July 25, 2008