Green’s Dictionary of Slang

wagtail n.

also up tail, wag, water-wagtail
[SE wag + tail n. (2)]

a promiscuous woman, a prostitute; occas. a dissolute man; also attrib.

[UK]S. Gardiner De Vera Obedientia To Reader Bj: [They] thinke it more mete for wanton wagtaile weston to be turned out for a stalaunt, [...] than to vse ani kinde of communication among worthi ladies.
[Ire]Lyly Midas I i: If [...] thou make not thy mistris a goldfinch, thou mayst chance to find her a wagtaile.
[UK]Gesta Grayorum in J. Nichols Progresses and Processions of Queen Elizabeth (1823) III 326: Winifride Wagtayle, of Wapping, claimes to hold of his Highnes a messuage called the Purfleet in Breech Lane, in smokinge.
[UK]H. Porter Two Angry Women of Abington B4: Goe to ye wag, tis well. If euer yee get a wife, I faith Ile tell.
[UK]Marston Dutch Curtezan IV iii: Gooddy fiste, flumpen pumpun, a my fine Wagtaile [...] get you gon Punke rampanyt, key common up-taile.
[UK]Shakespeare King Lear II ii: Thou whoreson zed! thou unnecessary letter! [...] Spare my grey beard, you wagtail?
[UK]N. Field Woman is a Weathercock II i: You have acted your name too much, sweet Mistress Wagtail. [Ibid.] III iii: That Wagtail is a whore, and I’ll stand to it.
[UK]Beaumont & Fletcher Wild-Goose-Chase IV ii: Thou Wag-tail, Peacock, Puppy; look on me: I am a Gentleman.
[UK]R. Davenport City-Night-Cap (1661) I 3: Learn of your City-Wagtail; with one eye Violently love your Husband, and with t’other Wink at your Friend.
[UK]J. Taylor ‘A Whore’ in Works (1869) 111: Here’s a sweet deale of scimble scamble stuffe, / To please my Lady Wagtayle (marry muffe).
[UK]T. Nabbes Covent Garden III iii: What say you pretty paire of Wag-tailes? doe you want play-mates?
[UK]J. Shirley Bird in a Cage IV i: This is a wagtail of the city, which a silk man So dearly lov’d, he call’d it wife; but could not (Though in much jealousy he had cag’d her up) Keep her from flying out.
[UK]R. Brome Eng. Moor I ii: Farewel wag-tail. Marry thee quoth a! That’s wife’s work indeed!
[UK]Man in the Moon 16-23 Apr. 11: Hannah Ienks, Ruth Turn up, Doll Burn-it, and sister Wag-tayle have petition’d the Supreame Authority.
[UK]Mercurius Fumigosus 28 6–13 Dec. 236: Her Husband plaid at Clicketts with a merry Wagg-tayle of the Town.
Behn Feign’d Curtizans 44: Oh the witty Wag-tail,—I have a part to play too, that shall confirm it—young Gentlewoman.
[UK]Otway Soldier’s Fortune I i: Get you afore me, you little didappers, ye wasps, ye wagtails.
[UK]Vanbrugh Provoked Wife V i: My pretty Poll, my gold finch, my little water-wagtail [...] Come, kiss me again.
[UK]T. Brown Amusements Serious and Comical in Works (1744) III 45: The generality of women are peacocks when they walk, water-wag-tails when they are within doors, and turtles when they meet face to face.
[UK]Comical Observator II 7–14 Nov. n.p.: I cannot but conceive the Levity of Women in this Wag-Tail Age, must be chiefly owing to the great inequality between the two Sexes.
[UK] ‘Poem on the Taking of St. Mary’s’ Collection of Eng. Poetry II (1716) 8: I know you Nuns are but a sort, / Of pious Wag-tails for the Sport / Of brawny Monks and Priests Design’d .
[UK]New Canting Dict. n.p.: wag-Tail a light Woman.
[UK]Beau’s Misc. 53: [as cit. 1709].
[UK]Life and Character of Moll King 8: Their Bullies [...] wore that Disguise, the more easily to deceive the unwary Youths, who were so unhappy as to cast their Eyes upon these deceitful Water-Wag-Tails.
[UK]Satan’s Harvest Home 3: The poor needy Wag-Tail must be cautious how she kisses, lest she be carried to Bridewel.
[UK]W. Kenrick Falstaff’s Wedding (1766) II ix: Go, Dol, you are riggish – get you gone you water-wag-tail, you.
[UK]Bailey Universal Etym. Eng. Dict. n.p.: [as cit. 1725].
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]C. Dibdin ‘All for the Chink’ in Buck’s Delight 28: Who’d refuse a lad of my inches [...] But wag-tails lur’d are by gold-finches.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]Friar and Boy 29: I may fix a ringing bell / In every woman’s spout [snout?] / Who does the wagtail wanton play / With friars in the dark.
[UK]Edinbury Gleaner 50: He who a Goldfinch strives to make his wife, Makes her, perhaps a Wag-tail all her life.
[UK]Swell’s Night Guide 35: That sweet weed, Phoebe Lawson, figures in this circle of wagtails.