Definitions

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

  • intransitive v. To move back and forth; wag steadily or rhythmically: watched the pendulum wigwag.
  • intransitive v. To signal by waving an upraised arm, flag, or light, especially in accordance with a code.
  • transitive v. To move (something) back and forth steadily or rhythmically.
  • transitive v. To convey (a message or signal) by waving an upraised arm, a flag, or a light.
  • n. The act or practice of wigwagging.
  • n. A message sent by this method.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Any of a number of mechanical or electrical devices which cause a component to oscillate between two states.
  • v. to oscillate between two states.
  • v. to send a signal by waving a single flag.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • intransitive v. To signal by means of a flag waved from side to side according to a code adopted for the purpose.
  • v. To move to and fro, to wag.
  • n. Act or art of wigwagging; a message wigwagged; -- chiefly attributive.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To move to and fro; specifically, to signal by movements of flags.
  • Writhing, wriggling, or twisting.
  • n. A rubbing instrument used by watchmakers. It is attached by a crank to a wheel of a lathe, which gives it a longitudinal movement of reciprocation.
  • n. Signaling by the movements of flags: as, to practise the wigwag.
  • To and fro; with wiggling motion: as, to go wigwag back and forth.

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

  • v. signal by or as if by a flag or light waved according to a code
  • v. send a signal by waving a flag or a light according to a certain code

Etymologies

Dialectal wig, to move + wag1.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)

Examples

  • Myer is heralded as the father of the corps because of his nomination and his invention of the colored flag-based signaling system called "wigwag" -- named after the back-and-forth motion of the flags used to create the messages.

    The Augusta Chronicle

  • "You're up in all that kind of wigwag signal work, and perhaps now you could tell what it means."

    The Chums of Scranton High on the Cinder Path

  • Unlike the "wigwag" system, the whole letter is shown at once.

    A Gunner Aboard the "Yankee"

  • A "wigwag" flag may be easily made by sewing a white square of muslin in the centre of a red bandana handkerchief.

    A Gunner Aboard the "Yankee"

  • The absence of the "wigwag" system made it impossible to convey intelligible messages.

    Truxton King A Story of Graustark

  • A burst of static obscured the end of an obscene Polish remark, and Rakoczy flew off with a wigwag of farewell.

    Songs of Love & Death

  • The dragon came close enough to recognize them, did a wings wigwag, and flew away.

    Pet Peeve

  • The best he could do was send a man up into an exposed position to make wigwag semaphore signals to Derfflinger astern, to pass the news along.

    Castles of Steel

  • Yet I know and you know people who blunder through life trying to wigwag other people into becoming interested in them.

    How to Win Friends and Influence People

  • Men with wigwag flags and mirrors communicated with Sartain and the satellite fortresses, bringing them to maximum readiness.

    The Swordbearer

Comments

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  • "Gregory Currie, a Werribee software developer, was on his way to work and walked through the open gates of a pedestrian crossing through which city-bound trains pass.A Werribee-bound train was passing on the other side of the platform and the boom gates across Old Geelong Road were shut, as was the other pedestrian crossing on the other side of the station.
    Mr Currie was stopped by Mario Cricchiola, a Metro authorised officer, who took his details and warned him he would likely be issued with an infringement notice. The matter went to the Werribee Magistrates Court in April, where Mr Currie defended himself against the charge of ''crossing a railway line at a place … for pedestrians when a wigwag (flashing signal) was operating at an immediately adjacent vehicular crossing''.
    - Adam Carey, Safey rule at railway crossing, theage.com.au, 17 August 2012.

    August 16, 2012