General English

  • noun something put into or over a person’s mouth to stop him or her speaking
  • verb to put something over a person’s mouth to try to stop him or her talking
  • verb to try to stop someone talking or writing
  • verb to choke; to try to vomit but be unable to do so

Media Studies

  • noun a joke or comic story told by a comedian


  • noun an instrument placed between the teeth to stop the mouth from closing
  • verb to experience a reaction similar to that of vomiting


  • verb to vomit. A teenager’s specialised use of the colloquial term for choking or retching. Its use is not entirely restricted to the speech of teenagers.


  • (1) An expression or piece of business that does notappear in the text of a play but is interpolated by the actors. WhenShakespeare makes Hamlet direct the players to "speak no more thanis set down" (III, ii) he cautions them against gagging.(2) A joke, especially a snappy one-liner.

Origin & History of “gag”

middle English gaggen meant ‘strangle, suffocate’, so the word started out with strong connotations that seem to have become submerged in local dialects as it came to be used more commonly in the milder sense ‘obstruct someone’s mouth’. In the 20th century, however, they have re-emerged in the intransitive sense ‘choke’. It is not clear how the 19th-century noun sense ‘joke’ is connected, if at all. As for the word’s source, it is generally said to have originated as an imitation of someone retching or choking.