lag

1 of 7

noun (1)

plural lags
1
a
: a falling or staying behind : the act or the condition of lagging
This work must go forward without lag.Dwight D. Eisenhower
see also jet lag
b
: comparative slowness or delay (as in movement, operation, or development)
In Finland … children begin school at seven. Despite that apparent lag, Finnish students score higher in reading comprehension than students from the UK and the US at age 15.Melissa Hogenboom
c
: a delay or interval between two related actions, events, etc.
… the day or so lag between the time you deposit a check in your bank and the time the check clears … .Lee Smith
… when using Bluetooth headphones to watch videos … there can be some noticeable lag between the motion in the picture and the sound from the headphones.Markkus Rovito
The longer a person is unaware of a positive test, the more time the person has to infect others. Local directors said they are still experiencing unacceptable lag times of as much as a week between test and data entry.Edmund H. Mahony
… the enormous lag time between the initial sketches of that new A-line skirt and its arrival in stores.James Surowiecki
see also time lag
2
or lag putt golf : a usually long putt struck with the aim of having the ball stop near the hole
The 18th wasn't a picnic for Parker yesterday. He … was forced to make a good lag to assure his par.Chris Stevenson
One of the best lag putts Vijay Singh ever stroked made him a back-to-back winner on the PGA Tour …The Columbian
3
archaic : someone or something that lags or is last
The omission of Harrison and Braxton and my being next to the lag [in number of votes] give me some alarm.Thomas Jefferson

lag

2 of 7

verb (1)

lagged; lagging; lags
1
a
transitive + intransitive : to stay or fall behind : to fail to keep up with others or with a goal, schedule, etc.
A few runners lagged the others.
He was relieved to find that his friend had also lagged by the wayside.P. G. Wodehouse
Argentina is the world's fifth-largest wine producer but has lagged other countries developing their wine industries for export.Clifford Krauss
Repo companies are reportedly excited about the prospect of remotely locking you out of your car if you're lagging on payments.Beth Wilson
often used with behind
… my horse, being tired, lagged behind.Charles Darwin
… the island's minister of economic affairs cautioned … that Taiwan was lagging behind its target of producing 20 per cent of its power from renewable sources by 2025 …Joanna Chiu
b
intransitive : to move, function, or develop with comparative slowness
After Sen. Dole's broadside against the entertainment industry, Time Warner Inc. asked the music industry to develop standards for releasing explicit material and said it would act unilaterally if other companies lagged.Ellen Graham
The songs … sound a little like he's singing with a digital delay echo, but even a cursory listen reveals that it's not that simple. Sometimes the voices on tape would anticipate him, sometimes they'd lag way behind, sometimes he was a unison chorus.Kyle Gann
2
intransitive : to slacken or weaken gradually : flag
… headachy brunches where the champagne punch tasted sour and conversation lagged.John Updike
This music … didn't rush—at least not after a bracingly brisk overture—but never lagged, the textures as airy as a June morning on Coney Island.Zachary Woolfe
3
transitive + intransitive golf : to hit (a golf ball or putt) with the aim of having the ball stop near the hole : to hit a lag putt (see lag entry 1 sense 2)
Woods lagged his first putt to within four feet and then sank his second one to win.Tim Crothers
My chip up onto the green was miserable. I left Bill a 40-foot putt. He lagged and left the ball three feet from the cup.Giles Tippette
lagger noun
plural laggers
"The men whom you would disturb are in front of you, and not, as you fancy, behind you; it is you who are the lagger, not they." Samuel Butler

lag

3 of 7

adjective

lag

4 of 7

noun (2)

1
: a barrel stave
2
: a stave, slat, or strip (as of wood or asbestos) forming part of a covering for a cylindrical object

lag

5 of 7

verb (2)

lagged; lagging

transitive verb

: to cover or provide with lags

lag

6 of 7

verb (3)

lagged; lagging

transitive verb

1
chiefly British slang : to transport or jail for crime
2
chiefly British slang : arrest

lag

7 of 7

noun (3)

1
chiefly British slang
a
: a person transported for crime
b
c
: an ex-convict
2
chiefly British slang : a jail sentence : stretch
Choose the Right Synonym for lag

delay, procrastinate, lag, loiter, dawdle, dally mean to move or act slowly so as to fall behind.

delay usually implies a putting off of something (such as a beginning or departure).

we cannot delay any longer

procrastinate implies blameworthy delay especially through laziness or apathy.

procrastinates about making decisions

lag implies failure to maintain a speed set by others.

lagging behind in technology

loiter and dawdle imply delay while in progress, especially in walking, but dawdle more clearly suggests an aimless wasting of time.

loitered at several store windows
children dawdling on their way home from school

dally suggests delay through trifling or vacillation when promptness is necessary.

stop dallying and get to work

Examples of lag in a Sentence

Adjective we're now in the lag end of the project
Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
After a lag, many of those migrants join the labor force. TIME, 8 Feb. 2024 The trend has been that the open-source companies have been able to come close to replicating the performance of the most capable proprietary models, but with about a six-month lag. Jeremy Kahn, Fortune, 6 Feb. 2024 User Experience The experience in my day-to-day usage was fluid and stable with zero lag or hiccups. Rudie Obias, The Hollywood Reporter, 31 Jan. 2024 The nonprofit believes this is actually an undercount due to lags in state data. Mary Kekatos, ABC News, 22 Dec. 2023 Unintentional injuries were the largest factor keeping life expectancy from rising more among American Indians and Alaska Natives in the U.S. Despite improvements, Masters warned the U.S. still has a long way to go in improving public health, a lag that started long before the pandemic. Kaitlin Sullivan, NBC News, 29 Nov. 2023 Many CEOs and CFOs are planning to spend more on AI this year, but for most companies there’s a lag in moving the needle from hype to progress. Sheryl Estrada, Fortune, 17 Jan. 2024 As night follows day, inflation, with a lag, has been falling rapidly. John Greenwood, National Review, 15 Jan. 2024 What is causing the lag? The delay in accurate test results is probably a result of people having accumulated immunity from COVID-19 over the years, whether from vaccinations or previous infections, Hudson said. Tribune News Service, Hartford Courant, 14 Jan. 2024
Verb
The shares have lagged far behind rivals, climbing 20% over the past three years, compared with gains of more than 100% for Apollo and KKR, and roughly 75% for Blackstone Inc. Earnings Beat One year into Schwartz’s tenure as CEO, the firm reported results that beat Wall Street expectations. Dawn Lim, Fortune, 8 Feb. 2024 But its adoption in veterinary practices has lagged behind human medicine. Rachel Nuwer, New York Times, 6 Feb. 2024 The regional index, however, has lagged global benchmarks for several years. Ryan Hogg, Fortune Europe, 6 Feb. 2024 The latest research indicates that recovery is lagging. Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times, 1 Feb. 2024 Concrete regulation has largely lagged behind, even as deepfakes like the one used by the robocall become cheaper and easier to produce, says Sam Gregory, program director at Witness, a nonprofit that helps people use technology to promote human rights. Vittoria Elliott, WIRED, 23 Jan. 2024 The changes are coming as the commuter rail agency faces ridership that has continued to lag since the pandemic upended traditional commuting patterns. Sarah Freishtat, Chicago Tribune, 23 Jan. 2024 This isn’t the first time Apple has lagged in emerging areas, such as 4G, 5G and foldable screens – none of which caused significant setbacks. Cnn.com Wire Service, The Mercury News, 25 Jan. 2024 Private investment in commercial stations lags far behind investment into core space industry markets like launch and satellite manufacturing. Stephen Clark, Ars Technica, 23 Jan. 2024
Adjective
With Baja mode activated, the twin-turbo V-6 engages the turbochargers' anti-lag function, and there's negligible delay in the power delivery during the quick on/off throttle sequences common to desert running. David Beard, Car and Driver, 20 June 2022 And some more good news for lovers of the distinctive fusillade produced by the original Impreza rally cars: this one keeps anti-lag, injecting fuel into the turbocharger to keep it spinning off-throttle. Mike Duff, Car and Driver, 21 June 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'lag.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Noun (1)

probably of Scandinavian origin; akin to Norwegian dialect lagga to go slowly

Noun (2)

probably of Scandinavian origin; akin to Old Norse lǫgg rim of a barrel

Verb (3)

origin unknown

First Known Use

Noun (1)

circa 1530, in the meaning defined at sense 3

Verb (1)

1530, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Adjective

1552, in the meaning defined above

Noun (2)

1672, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb (2)

1870, in the meaning defined above

Verb (3)

circa 1812, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun (3)

circa 1812, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of lag was circa 1530

Dictionary Entries Near lag

Cite this Entry

“Lag.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lag. Accessed 21 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition

lag

1 of 2 noun
1
: the action or condition of lagging
2
a
: amount of lagging
b
: a time during which lagging continues

lag

2 of 2 verb
lagged; lagging
1
: to stay or fall behind : linger, loiter
2
: to move, function, or develop too slowly
production lagged behind schedule
3
: to slacken little by little : flag
lagger noun

Medical Definition

lag

1 of 2 verb
lagged; lagging

intransitive verb

: to move, function, or develop with comparative slowness
the child lagged in perceptual development
symptoms may lag behind the radiographic changesCarol J. Johns & Theresa M. Michele

transitive verb

: to lag behind
current that lags the voltage

lag

2 of 2 noun
1
: the act or the condition of lagging
2
: comparative slowness or retardation (as in growth or development)
3
a
: a space of time especially between related events or phenomena see lag phase
b
: the time between the application of a stimulus and the occurrence of the response it causes

More from Merriam-Webster on lag

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