Green’s Dictionary of Slang

gag v.

[SE gag, to choke, to mute; the image is of making someone ‘swallow’ a lie or imposture]

1. (UK Und., also gagg) to beg.

[UK]J. Poulter Discoveries (1774) 42: I chant, I gagg; I sing Ballads, I beg.
[UK]Whole Art of Thieving [as cit. 1753].
[UK]H.T. Potter New Dict. Cant (1795).
[UK]Leamington Spa Courier 20 Sept. 7/1: There are a great many tramps staying in this district at the present time [...] In addition to ‘gagging’ ‘scran’ (food) and ‘thonicks’ (coppers), they also get hold of a lot of old ‘clobber’ (clothes).
[US]W.A. Gape Half a Million Tramps 192: ‘How did you get this food?’ ‘I just gagged it,’ the tramp replied.

2. (also gagger) to deceive, take in or impose upon (a person).

[UK]G. Parker View of Society II 154: A man who by some means or other gets footing in a gentleman’s house [...] Having discovered the weak side of him he means to gag, which he soon acquires a knowledge of, perhaps when he has found him overtaken in liquor.
[UK]Sporting Mag. Dec. VII 163/1: To kick up a row or beat up a breeze, / I never sit quamp, like a mouse in a cheese, / But I go it and gag it, as loud as I please.
[UK]‘One of the Fancy’ Tom Crib’s Memorial to Congress 5: My eyes, how delightful! – the rabble well gagg’d, / The Swells in high feather, and old Boney lagg’d!
[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew London Labour and London Poor III 354/1: It’s the pounceys, too, that mostly go gagging where the girls walk.
[UK]Sl. Dict.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 20 June 6/4: The old lady believed it all. But after he had left off ‘gagging’ her, and the conversation was serious, the topic of sheep and cattle farms cropped up.
[UK]Sketch (London) 22 Feb. 18: One crime a night is the average brisk record of “Scrappers’ Alley” [...] a blind court where the unwary or drunken can be robbed and gagged at leisure.
[UK]F. Jennings Tramping with Tramps 211: Gagger – to tell the tale, to move to pity.
[UK]G. Fairlie Bulldog Drummond Stands Fast 75: Warned off? You haven’t been gagging?
[UK]R.T. Hopkins Banker Tells All 43: Of course, she was only kidding – just gagging her way into the affair.
[US]L. Pettiway Workin’ It 242: I wouldn’t have to try to gag them, they would come. They were sucker.

3. to amuse.

[UK]R.B. Peake Life of an Actor I iv: The actor, sir, is a creature of amusement [...] I have been gagging, as it is termed, for the last twenty-five years.
[UK] ‘The Agony Bill’ in Holloway & Black II (1979) 269: At this you’ll laugh for it’s meant to gag you.
[US]J.M. Cain Moth (1950) 307: He’d been half gagging up to them, but all of a sudden he got serious.
[US]G.V. Higgins Rat on Fire (1982) 20: The idea of Jerry Fein in court is something that’d gag a billy goat.
[UK](con. 1860s) P. Ackroyd Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem 152: I used to gag them by marching across the stage with a banner saying ‘Temporary Fire Curtain’.

4. to scold, to nag.

[UK]Sessions Papers Sept. in DSUE (1984).
[UK]Hotten Sl. Dict.

5. to make a joke.

[UK]Paul Pry 27 Nov. n.p.: Advises the ‘leading men’ at the Albert Saloon, to set a better example to the subordinates; and the ‘low comedian’ to remember decency when he ‘gags’.
[UK] ‘’Arry on Niggers’ in Punch 15 Mar. 113/2: Twig the joke? Made it only last night [...] / And I tell yer the roar was as loud as when Jolly Mug gags to the Gal.
[UK]Referee 11 Dec. in Ware (1909) 89/2: David out-gagged even himself, and caused great laughter. Nobody else was worth a condemnation.
[Ire]L. Doyle Dear Ducks 78: ‘Hello, Joseph,’ sez I, gaggin’ him, ‘has the widow threw ye over?’.
[UK]J.B. Booth Sporting Times 117: In some ten minutes Leno was gagging wildly at his best.
[US]J.M. Cain Mildred Pierce (1985) 344: He was always gagging about how lucky the married ones were on income-tax day.
[US](con. 1948) G. Mandel Flee the Angry Strangers 76: I don’t know what you mean [...] but I can tell you’re gagging with me.
[US]T. Thackrey Thief 347: We used to gag around a lot about it.
[US]L. Pettiway Workin’ It 220: I used to gag Zee.

6. to ad lib.

[UK]Dickens Bleak House (1991) 558: The same vocalist ‘gags’ in the regular business like a man inspired.
[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew London Labour and London Poor III 139/2: He has to ‘gag,’ that is, make up words.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 20 Nov. 12/1: Some [actors] are allowed to ‘gag’ whilst others are gagged.
[US]Daily Trib. (Bismarck, ND) 23 Oct. 4/1: When he supplies humor he ‘gags the part.’.
[UK]J. Payn Notes from ‘News’ 81: The chorister boys [...] have been getting into trouble for what in theatrical circles is called ‘gagging’ – singing things that are not in the programme.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 23 June 8/3: They enter with all their hearts into the spirit of the burlesque, whilst resisting every temptation to ‘gag’ their parts.
[Scot]Eve. Teleg. (Dundee) 5 Nov. 4/3: [headline] Stage Gaggers who made History. Impromptu Lines in Famous Plays [...] This ‘business’ of the actor’s own — in theatrical parlance, ‘gagging’ — can boast a respected antiquity.
[UK]P. Fordham Inside the Und. 121: Was it a tape or just impromptu gagging?
[UK](con. 1870s) P. Ackroyd Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem 172: The two comedians were ‘gagging’ one another and delivering lines extempore.

7. to persuade, to boost, to promote.

[UK]C. Hindley Life and Adventures of a Cheap Jack 325: They gag the thing up, and send their bills out about the immense cost of scenery and dresses, and other expenses.
[UK]T. Norman Penny Showman 24: I would exhibit that woman and Gag (boost) her up for all I was worth.

8. (also gag on) to inform against, to betray.

Morning Advertiser 28 Mar: She [...] besought them with (crocodile) tears not to gag on them, in other words not to give information to the police [F&H].

9. to fix a horserace.

[US](con. 1911) in J. Breslin Damon Runyon (1992) 134: Did you gag the race?

10. to fake, to falsify.

[UK]J.P. Carstairs Concrete Kimono 54: How many custom forms I had deliberately gagged up, falsified.

11. (US campus) to find disgusting.

[US]Eble Campus Sl. Sept. 3: gag – repulse, sicken.

12. (US prison/drugs) to cheat; to sell fake drugs; thus gagger n., a seller of fake drugs.

[US]E. Richards Cocaine True 115: I been a gagger too, just to make some money. [...] Sharon was a lookout on the corner, when Jackie gagged four guys in a car. They found out and came back looking for her.
[US]L. Pettiway Workin’ It 132: I’ll gag folks. I’ll issue them. Sometimes they’ll come back after I’ve gagged them [...] They just say to me, ‘Look, come on. You didn’t have to do that. Just give me some real stuff’.
[US]Other Side of the Wall: Prisoner’s Dict. July 🌐 Gagged: (1) To be shortchanged. (2) To be shown someone’s penis. (FL).

13. (US black) to arrest.

[US]L. Stavsky et al. A2Z.

In phrases

gag low (v.)

(UK Und.) to beg in the streets (sometimes displaying a fake broken limb), applied to the lowest level of beggar.

[UK]H.T. Potter New Dict. Cant (1795) n.p.: gag low to beg in the streets.
[UK]G. Andrewes Dict. Sl. and Cant.
[UK]Flash Dict.
[UK]G. Kent Modern Flash Dict. 15: Gag, low – the last degree of beggary; to ask alms in the streets with a pretended broken limb.
[UK]Flash Dict. in Sinks of London Laid Open [as cit. 1835].
[UK]Duncombe New and Improved Flash Dict.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

gag-awful (adj.)

(US campus) terrible.

[US]Eble Campus Sl. Fall 3: gag-awful – very bad: What a gag-awful day.

In exclamations

gag me (with a spoon)! (also gag me with a blowdryer! ...a snow shovel!, ...the phone book!)

(US teen) an expression of disgust.

[US]Frank Zappa ‘Valley Girl’ 🎵 It’s like totally disgusting / I’m like so sure / It’s like BARF ME OUT . . . / Gag me with a spoon!
[US]Eble Campus Sl. Mar. 3: gag me [...] also gag me with a snow shovel.
[US]Eble Campus Sl. Fall 4: gag – interjection of disgust. Also gag me, gag me with a spoon.
[US]S. Morgan Homeboy 3: Gag me with a blowdryer! [Ibid.] 83: Oh gag me with the phone book!
‘Valley Girls’ on Paranoiafanzine 🌐 Eeew! Grody to the max! I mean, I cannot believe you even chose this mega-dick. You must be a complete jel or something. I mean, barf me out, gag me with a spoon! Gross!