wag·​tail | \ ˈwag-ˌtāl How to pronounce wagtail (audio) \

Definition of wagtail

: any of various chiefly Old World oscine birds (family Motacillidae) related to the pipits and having a long tail that they habitually jerk up and down

Examples of wagtail in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The word steort fell out of general use around 1300, surviving only in the names of birds like redstart and wagstart (better known today as the wagtail). Simon Horobin, Quartz, "Five words in the English language people usually use incorrectly," 10 Nov. 2019 Birdsong provides a natural soundtrack, as bulbuls, gray wagtails, warblers, blackbirds, and turtledoves all call the garden home. National Geographic, "Visit a designer’s oasis in the heart of Marrakech," 20 Sep. 2019 A female duck grabbed the grey wagtail in her beak, dunked it several times beneath the water, then ate it, Petrovan says. Arden Dier, Fox News, "Think ducks are cute? This might change your mind," 3 July 2017 The area is unusually abundant with animal life: the novel’s first chapter teems with wagtails, willow warblers, geese, horses, snow leopards, wolves, sheep, goats, geckos, and frogs. Evan James, The New Yorker, "The Mysterious Frontiers of Can Xue," 8 June 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'wagtail.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of wagtail

1510, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about wagtail

Time Traveler for wagtail

Time Traveler

The first known use of wagtail was in 1510

See more words from the same year

Statistics for wagtail

Cite this Entry

“Wagtail.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wagtail. Accessed 18 Feb. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for wagtail


How to pronounce wagtail (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of wagtail

: a small European bird that has a long tail which regularly moves up and down

More from Merriam-Webster on wagtail

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with wagtail

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about wagtail

Comments on wagtail

What made you want to look up wagtail? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

More Confusing Words—Quiz

  • cats on impossible timber
  • The magician ______ moved the selected card to the top of the deck.
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!