Green’s Dictionary of Slang

wag v.

[SE vagrant]

1. (also wag off) to leave, to walk slowly.

[UK]Wycherley Country-Wife IV iv: I will not wag without you.
[UK]C. Johnson Hist. of Highwaymen &c 354: She’ll lie there long enough, before she wags out of the Dock.
W. Cowper Yearly Distress in Milford Poetical Works (1934) 299: ‘Come, neighbours, we must wag’ – The money chinks, down drop their chins, Each lugging out his bag.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 1 Aug. 5/3: But the Queen’s ‘moke’ had not come on board – was probably ‘wagging’ it on the Nile chewing thistles.
[US] in E. Cray Erotic Muse (1992) 3: He picked one up all by the backbone / And he put him on his shoulder and he wagged [?] off home.

2. (Aus., also wag it, wag off) to play truant; thus wagging n.

[UK]Dickens Dombey And Son (1970) 379: ‘Wag, Sir. Wagging from school.’ ‘Do you mean pretending to go there, and not going?’ said Mr Carker. ‘Yes, Sir, that’s wagging, Sir.’.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 25 Sept. 9/2: When Julius Caesar used to wear a ‘pinny’ and ‘wag it’ down to the Tiber Creek to smoke bits of cane and old ‘sojers’.
[Aus]Aus. Town & Country Jrnl 3 June 15/2: No Wagging — The school attendance officer is among us taking notes.
[Aus]Dead Bird (Sydney) 20 July 2/1: Did we ‘wag’ to play ‘bushrangers’ in the timber near the creek?
[Aus]Coburg Leader (Vic.) 28 Sept. 4/2: Pev is going to wag from church to-morrow night and take Sally for a walk.
[Aus]Coburg Leader (Vic.) 5 Oct. 4/2: Sammy G. wagged it from church last Sunday.
[Aus]Punch (Melbourne) 27 Sept. 4/2: Our ruck was abeowt as rapid as a school kid goin’ inter ther ’ead’s room to ’ave six cuts for waggin’ it.
[Aus]Register (Adelaide) 20 May 8/7: Previous to his being locked up for a week he had been ‘wagging’ from school.
[Aus]Brisbane Courier 17 May 14/7: He had received a hiding for wagging school.
[Aus]N. Lindsay Saturdee 201: He went to school that afternoon, though he intended to spend it a-wagging.
[Aus]Cairns Post (Qld) 9 Mar. 1/8: More children are ‘wagging’ school now than for some years.
[Aus]Argus (Melbourne) 30/1: School-wagging forgiven [...] A little boy who used to ‘wag’ school to go horseriding yesterday rode in a race.
[NZ]G. Slatter Gun in My Hand 150: Des who got caned for wagging the French test.
[UK]I. & P. Opie Lore and Lang. of Schoolchildren (1977) 397: ‘Hopping the wag’, ‘wagging school’, or ‘wagging it.’.
[NZ]G. Slatter Pagan Game (1969) 15: He never wagged lectures to go on a pub crawl.
[Aus]Aus. Women’s Wkly 3 Mar. 75/3: Wagging School. Our whole family is upset because our 12-year-old son has been playing truant.
[Aus]P. Temple Bad Debts (2012) [ebook] This is me boy Tom, waggin school.
[UK]Brummagem Dict. [Internet] wag vt. to play truant. ‘I wagged the afternoon off.’ ‘I was copped waggin’ it.’.
[Aus]D. McDonald Luck in the Greater West (2008) 1: What class ya got now? [...] I got commerce. I’m thinkin’ of waggin’ but.
Twitter 9 Apr. [Internet] In 1981 I wagged school with mates to see MAD MAX 2. It blew my young male mind.
[Aus]C. Hammer Silver [ebook] Wagging school and smoking cigarettes among the dunes.

3. (US black) to procrastinate, to find it hard to make any decisions.

[US]R. Klein Jailhouse Jargon and Street Sl. [unpub. ms.].

4. (US campus) to act without underlying knowledge.

[US]C. Eble (ed.) UNC-CH Campus Sl. Spring 2016 11: WAG — make a largely uninformed guess: ‘I wagged that exam’; ‘I don’t know how to install this car stereo—I’m going to wag it’.

In phrases

wag it (v.)

to play truant.

[Aus]‘Rolf Boldrewood’ Robbery Under Arms (1922) 155: My word, I thought he’d been waggin’ it from some o’ them Gov’ment institoosh’ns.
Bathhurst Free Press 23 Mar. 2: Defendent said she sent her boy [to school] regularly but he ‘wagged it’.
[Aus]H. Lawson ‘An Echo from the Old Bark School’ in Roderick (1972) 244: Bill was ‘wagging it.’.
[UK]W.S. Walker In the Blood 13: They had ‘wagged it’ from school, as they termed it, which was an unvarying practice of theirs, and meant truancy in all its forms.
[Aus]N. Lindsay Saturdee 208: Peter wagged it for a week.
[Aus]L. Glassop Lucky Palmer 4: Whenever he could ‘wag’ it from school on Thursdays he did the call for Ross Harrison.
[UK]I. & P. Opie Lore and Lang. of Schoolchildren (1977) 397: ‘Hopping the wag’, ‘wagging school’, or ‘wagging it.’.
[Aus]A. Buzo Rooted I iii: We used to wag it together.
OnLine Dict. of Playground Sl. [Internet] wag n. to abscond from school without permission e.g. ‘he wagged it yesterday.’.
[UK]Brummagem Dict. [Internet] wag vt. to play truant. ‘I wagged the afternoon off.’ ‘I was copped waggin’ it.’.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

wag-halter (n.)

a term of abuse, lit. one whose body causes the hangman’s noose to sway.

[UK]J. Heywood Proverbs (1906) II:vii: Every good thing / Thou lettest even slip, like a waghalter slipstring [ibid.] 439: [ed. note: a gallows bird, one rope-ripe but who has cheated the gallows].
[UK]Misogonus in Farmer (1906) IV ii: Stand out of my way, waghalter! or I will breech thee nak’d.
[UK]Lyly Mother Bombie II iv: I’ll teach my wag-halter to know grapes from barley.
Marston Insatiate Countess I: Or what say you to a fine scaling ladder of ropes? I can tell you, I am a mad wag-halter.
J. Ford Fancies Chaste & Noble I ii: Not so terrible as a cross-tree that never grows, to a wag-halter.
[UK]A. Boyer Royal Dict. n.p.: A wag halter, Un pendant.

In phrases

wag hemp in the wind (v.) [the hempen rope]

to be hanged.

[UK]T. More Confutation of Tyndale Answer VIII Pt II 788: Tyndale calleth blessyng and crossyng but waggyng of folkes fyngers in the ayre, and fereth not (lyke one that wolde at length wagge hempe in the wynd) to mocke at all such myracles.
wag one’s chin (v.) (also ...jaw, ...tongue)

to talk, to gossip.

[UK]Humours of a Coffee-House 3 Oct. 30: Hang News, it’s good for nothing as I know on, but to make Mechanick Politicians wag their Chins over their Ninny-Broth.
Imitations of the Characters of Theophrastus 10: The Babbler [...] He’ll scrape acquaintance and begin / Familiarly to wag his chin.
[UK]Thackeray Punch’s Prize Novelists: The Stars and Stripes in Burlesques (1903) 227: ‘I can follow the talk of a Pawnee,’ he said, ‘or wag my jaw, if so be necessity bids me to speak.’.
[UK](ref. to 1819) Manchester Times 28 Oct. 2/1: Just published: The Bairnsla Fuak’s Annual [...] for 1819 [...] A Cumpany we Widda Wagjaw, Fanny Frumper, Betty Barrellweight and Lindy All-lip.
[UK]T. Archer Pauper, Thief and Convict 140: There mayn’t be false swearing, call it what you like, but they wag their jaws to a lie.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 15 Oct. 14/4: While the Jingo priest of platitudes (for which he’s overpaid) / Wags his chin against all ‘scribblers,’ ever ready with their aid / To make a speech read trippingly which properly is lame.
[US]H. Miller Tropic of Capricorn (1964) 35: That made him wag his tongue some more.
wag one’s tail (v.) [tail n. (2)]

of a woman, to act in a promiscuous manner; to be a prostitute; thus tail-wagging n.

[UK]Motteux (trans.) Gargantua and Pantagruel (1927) II Bk V 633: They were most nimble at wriggling the buttocks, and more diligent in tail-wagging than any water-wagtails, perpetually jogging and shaking their double rumps.
[UK] ‘Tweedmouth Town’ in Burns Merry Muses of Caledonia (1965) 195: An’ there likewise liv’d three wives, / Who sometimes wagged their tale. [...] Shall we, quo they, ne’er sport or play, / Nor wag our tails again.
[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. and Its Analogues.
[UK]Farmer Vocabula Amatoria (1966) 33: Battre le briquet = to copulate; ‘to wag one’s tail.’.